Today Democratic Members on the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship wrote Majority Leader Frist asking for immediate passage of critical legislation to fund the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Disaster Loan program to ensure Gulf Coast victims of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma receive much-needed assistance without interruption.

The SBA waited until just days before the Disaster Loan program was on the verge of shutting down on February 13, 2006 to ask Congress for $100 million in emergency reprogrammed funding. Yet, while Congress approved this money, it will only fund the program through the end of the month.

The Bush Administration is asking Congress for an additional $1 billion to be reallocated from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund to the SBA’s Disaster Loan program – yet this is still not enough to fund the program through the end of the fiscal year. According to the SBA, $1.3 billion is needed to fully fund the Disaster Loan program through the end of September while the $1 billion the Administration plans to ask for would only keep the program afloat through July.

“The Bush Administration’s Band-Aid approach to hurricane relief does nothing but leave more doubt for homeowners and small business owners,” said Senator John Kerry (D-Mass), Ranking Member of the Committee. “Waiting until the last minute to get this needed funding just adds to the uncertainty Gulf Coast residents are already facing as they try to rebuild their lives.”

The Committee Democrats requested this important legislation move as a free-standing bill before next week’s scheduled congressional recess to avoid delay by being attached to unrelated controversial legislation.

Six months since Hurricane Katrina, almost half of the homeowners who have applied for a disaster loan are still waiting for their loans to be processed. Out of the more than 325,000 homeowners who have applied for assistance, nearly 110,000 have been denied. For business owners, more than 30 percent are still waiting for their loan requests to be processed.

“After nearly six months, Gulf Coast residents are still tangled in a web of bureaucracy,” said Kerry. “It’s sad that Congress has to intervene to ensure hurricane victims are not left without a safety net thanks to the Administration’s piecemeal and paltry approach to disaster recovery.”

To read the letter, please click here.