WASHINGTON – Today the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship passed comprehensive legislation reauthorizing the Small Business Administration and critical small business programs through 2009. The Committee voted 18-0 to pass the bipartisan legislation. Following is a statement from Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), top Democrat on the Committee:

“This is important bipartisan legislation to reauthorize major small business financing and counseling programs. It doesn’t have a party label, it has a small business label. This legislation addresses the shortcomings and failures of the Small Business Administration, especially the severely mismanaged Disaster Loan Program. After visiting the Gulf Coast three times since Hurricane Katrina devastated the region, I am disappointed and amazed at the inactivity that still remains. Washington has not kept its promise to the Gulf Coast, but this legislation is a step in the right direction.

“This bill increases opportunities for veterans, women and all small business owners who have been left behind. It aims to close the lending gap and help foster expanded entrepreneurship in our minority communities. In particular, this bill will create a Minority Entrepreneurship and Innovation Pilot Program in underserved communities and gives minority business owners their own advocate in the SBA. It also provides small business owners, farmers and truckers much-needed relief from record-high energy costs.

“We need to ensure this legislation remains bipartisan. The last time Congress reauthorized small business programs, we passed a similarly bipartisan bill out of Committee. However, the final product was notably partisan with all Democratic provisions dropped. If we are to truly serve America’s small business owners well, we need to ensure the final legislation reflects all of our efforts today.”