WASHINGTON - Senator John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), Chairman of the Senate Small Business Committee, and Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) today held a field hearing of the Small Business Committee to address the energy crisis' affect on the small business community. The hearing, held at the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce in Seattle, WA, addressed the price and reliability of electricity and other energy sources.

"Running a small business is hard enough without the economic devastation energy price shocks can cause," said Chairman John Kerry. "We must act to provide immediate relief for struggling businesses -- and we must embrace long term, technology driven, national policies to ensure that - rather than suffer from the energy crunch - small businesses will be the innovators behind new, creative answers to our nation's energy needs."

Among the energy policies that Senator Kerry recommended were providing financial assistance through the Small Business Administration's economic injury disaster loan program through the Small Business and Farm Energy Emergency Relief Act of 2001, extending small businesses working capital until normal operations resume, or until they can restructure or change the business to address the market changes. The legislation, cosponsored by Senator Cantwell and currently being reviewed by the House Committee on Small Business and the House Committee on Agriculture, also includes a provision that allows for a portion of the loan proceeds to be used to convert the power system of a small business or small farm from the use of a heating fuel or electricity to the use of a renewable or alternative energy source, such as wind energy or field cells.