WASHINGTON -- A day after Hurricane Wilma ravaged Florida, Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) today asked the head of the Small Business Administration (SBA) to reconsider the agency’s decision last week to close the temporary loan assistance center in Miami.

“Talk about poor planning. Closing a disaster loan center days before a major hurricane hits the region is absurd,” said Kerry, top Democrat on the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee. “It doesn't make any sense for the SBA to close a Miami office until it was sure people and small businesses in the area wouldn't need the extra help. Sadly, this is another example of the administration being completely out-of-touch with the small business owners they are supposed to be helping.”

On October 19, 2005, the SBA closed one of the two temporary loan assistance centers in Miami. At the same time, Hurricane Wilma was measured as the most powerful storm ever recorded in the Atlantic and the weather forecasts were indicating Florida was a likely target.

In his letter to the SBA, Kerry repeated his frustration with the SBA’s disaster loan process in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. As of last Friday, the SBA had received over 160,000 disaster loan applications and had approved just 2,865. Of those approved loans, only 203 were for small businesses.

“Given the history of hurricanes in the state, the forecasts, and the chronic problems of the SBA in meeting the disaster loan needs of Katrina and Rita victims, it is unclear why the SBA would give up this location and its staff until it was sure the area would not need the backup support for those small businesses and homes damaged in the area and any evacuees who end up stranded there,” Kerry wrote.

After a disaster, the SBA offers loans to repair damaged homes and businesses. Individuals can go to the SBA’s temporary loan assistance centers to meet in person with an SBA loan officer in the affected regions.