WASHINGTON – Massachusetts small businesses facing economic hardship caused by drought and extreme heat last summer and fall are now eligible for federal aid under a law authored by Senator John Kerry. Federal economic injury disaster loans are now available to small businesses in Barnstable, Bristol, Middlesex, Norfolk, Plymouth, Suffolk, and Worcester counties that have been adversely impacted by drought and heat conditions from July 15 – December 31, 2007.

“When drought strikes, it’s not just our farmers who struggle. Many other Bay State businesses are harmed too, so they need a financial shot in the arm,” said Kerry, Chairman of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

In January 2006, the President signed into law Kerry’s Small Business Drought Relief Act that was attached to the Defense Authorization bill. The law provides small businesses in states with drought declarations with access to low-interest loans for business-related purposes, including paying bills and making payroll until business returns to normal. Kerry fought for three years to close the loophole that enabled the Small Business Administration (SBA) to deny non-farm or agriculture dependent small businesses access to economic injury disaster loans when the Secretary of Agriculture issued a drought declaration.

Currently, Kerry is working to enact legislation to improve the SBA’s disaster loan program by increasing loans from $1.5 million to $2 million and providing the agency with additional tools to process disaster loans more quickly. Kerry’s legislation has passed the Senate.

The deadline for small businesses to apply for an SBA economic injury disaster loan is December 8, 2008. For more information, call 1-800-659-2955 (1-800-877-8339 for the hearing-impaired) or download loan applications at http://www.sba.gov.