WASHINGTON – Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, today vowed to support full funding of the Native American Outreach program at the Small Business Administration, which President Bush proposed eliminating for the second year in a row.

“With unemployment as high as 70 percent and poverty rates well above the national average, Native Americans need a commitment from the federal government that we’re here to help,” Kerry said. “It is wrong for the President to turn his back on Native American businesses and the Native American community.”

In 2002, the Bush administration dismantled the infrastructure of SBA’s only program aimed at helping Native Americans – the tribal business information centers (TBICs) – and for the past two years has proposed eliminating all Native American outreach at the agency.

“This country is about opportunity, and we ought to give Native American’s an equal opportunity for self-sufficiency and economic independence,” Kerry added. “For years, I’ve fought to support Native American entrepreneurs, and I pledge to continue that fight because it’s the right thing to do.” Kerry has advocated for Native American outreach at the SBA and will work with Congress to improve the Bush budget. Earlier proposals include:

- adequately funding the SBA’s Native American Outreach program

- legislation introduced with Sens. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), S.1126, the Native American Small Business Development Act, to create a network of entrepreneurial development centers specifically designed to address the needs of Native American small businesses

- legislation with Sen. Bingaman (D-N.M.) to establish a microenterprise program for Native American entrepreneurs at the SBA. (both this legislation and S.1126 were included in Kerry’s Senate-passed SBA Reauthorization bill, S.1375)

The President’s budget for fiscal year 2005 was released yesterday. The Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship will hold a hearing to address concerns about the budget on Thursday, February 12, 2004, at 9:30 a.m. For more information, call (202) 224-8496.