Washington – President Bill Clinton today signed into law legislation that will give small business owners who are called to active military duty access to deferred loan payments, disaster loans, and management assistance through the Small Business Administration (S.B.A.). Senator John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), ranking member of the Small Business Committee, authored this legislation, which passed both the House and the Senate with overwhelming support.

"This is a great victory for all those who commit themselves to serving our country and who contribute so much to an American economy built on successful small businesses. Now reservists will not have to lose their businesses after risking their lives in military conflict," Kerry continued. "I thank the President for this strong show of support for veterans and small business owners."

Senator Kerry's legislation offers small businessmen and women three types of assistance:

First, the legislation authorizes a deferral of loan repayments on any direct loan from the Small Business Administration (SBA), including disaster loans. For guaranteed loans, the SBA would encourage and facilitate ways for lenders (intermediaries) to defer or reduce loan repayments for qualified reservists.

Second, the legislation 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 a small business when the departure of a miliary reservist to active duty causes economic harm. (Reservists may apply for a loan repayment deferral or an economic injury loan from the date that the military reservist is ordered to active duty until 90 days after release from active duty.)

Finally, the legislation 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 away from home may be inexperienced in running the business and may need quick access to management and marketing counseling.