WASHINGTON - Senator John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), the Ranking Member of the Senate Small Business Committee, today introduced legislation to assist small business owners affected by President Clinton's call-up of military reservists for service in military operations in and around Yugoslavia. To date, the Kerry bill has already attracted 27 co-sponsors, including Small Business Committee Chairman Kit Bond.

The reservists would be eligible for loan assistance programs from the Small Business Administration (SBA) if they are an owner, manager, or key employee of a small business.

"After the Gulf War, many small business owners returned from active duty to hardships ranging from bankruptcy to financial ruin," said Kerry. "We want to send these reserves overseas with the least negative impacts as possible. We have designed our policy to rely heavily on reserve forces in conflicts like Kosovo; now we must ensure that the deployment of these men and women has the least negative impacts as possible."

The bill would offer these small businessmen and women three types of assistance. First, the bill authorizes a deferral of loan repayments on any direct loan from the Small Business Administration (SBA), including disaster loans.

Second, the bill establishes a low interest economic injury loan program to be administered by SBA through its disaster loan program. These loans would be available to provide interim operating capital to any small business when the departure of a miliary reservist to active duty causes economic harm. (Reservists may apply for loan repayments or an economic injury loan from the date that the military reservist is ordered to active duty until 180 days after release from active duty.)

Finally, the bill directs SBA and all of its private sector partners, such as the Small Business Development Centers, to make every effort to reach out to those businesses affected by call up of military reservists to active duty. Those left behind to run the business while the military reservist is serving overseas may be inexperienced in running the business and may need quick access to management and marketing counseling.