WASHINGTON--- Today Senators John Kerry and Edward M. Kennedy and Representative Niki Tsongas urged the Bush Administration to deliver timely disaster loan assistance to victims of the recent fire in Lawrence, Massachusetts. At least 150 people were left homeless after the blaze on Monday morning, which leveled most of a city block.

“The families and businesses in Lawrence devastated by this fire need help right away so that they can get back on their feet, and they need the Small Business Administration to do its part,” said Senator Kerry, Chairman of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. “The community will rebuild, and we will help them every step of the way, but we’ve got to start by getting them the federal relief they need now.”

"While we're grateful this terrible fire didn't cost any lives or cause serious injuries, without question it will cause serious economic hardship. This SBA assistance is badly needed, and we're hopeful the people of Lawrence will soon get the help they deserve," said Senator Kennedy.

"The victims of Monday's fire have had their lives unexpectedly interrupted and face a difficult road ahead. I urge the Small Business Administration to quickly make these loans available, so that those affected by this tragedy can start rebuilding their homes and businesses as soon as possible," said Congresswoman Tsongas.

Senator Kerry has authored bipartisan legislation with Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) to improve the disaster loan programs for homeowners and small businesses. The provisions, most recently passed by the Senate in December as part of the Farm Bill, will establish a Private Disaster Loan program to be used in the aftermath of catastrophic disasters, create a new expedited disaster assistance business loan program, create a new presidential declaration of “Catastrophic National Disaster,” provide key tools for processing disaster loan applications more quickly, and increase the maximum size of a disaster loan from $1.5 million to $2 million. Republican leadership has refused to appoint Senators to negotiate differences between the House and Senate passed bills.

To read the letter that Sens. Kerry and Kennedy and Rep. Tsongas sent to SBA Administrator Preston, please click here.