WASHINGTON -- A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators led by John Kerry (D-Mass.), Ranking Democrat on the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, is urging the federal government to implement legislation that provides low-interest loans to agricultural-dependent as well as small firms not dependent on agriculture whose businesses have been impacted by drought. Currently, more than half the states in the country have drought declarations by the Secretary of Agriculture, including Massachusetts.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) had repeatedly claimed that only agriculture-dependent firms were eligible for assistance. However, in January, legislation sponsored by Kerry and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) was signed into law clarifying the SBA’s authority to issue disaster loans to all small businesses that face economic injury from drought conditions. This legislation has received broad support from governors and small businesses.

“We have made it crystal clear that it’s the Administration’s responsibility to get all small businesses hurt by drought the help they need, but small businesses are still waiting for action,” said Kerry. “No more excuses. No more red tape. Every small business owner whose economic livelihood is hurt by a drought must have the opportunity to keep their doors open, whether it’s fishing guides, bait and tackle shops, or anything else. The SBA needs to stop their foot-dragging and start helping small businesses.”

There are 27 states with open drought declarations by the Secretary of Agriculture, thereby making businesses eligible for disaster loans: Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. Yet because SBA has only been allowing agriculture-dependent businesses to receive the loans, many small firms have not been able to receive the financial assistance they need.

The law requires SBA to implement the policy within 45 days. Given the Administration is more than a month past compliance and the summer – which is peak drought season – is right around the corner, Kerry was joined by Enzi and Senators Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Harry Reid (D-Nev.) -- who all helped get the measure passed -- in calling for the agency’s swift implementation of these changes.

The Senators wrote, “By applying the law fairly and giving all small business owners access to low-interest loans for paying bills and making payroll – regardless of whether or not their business has agricultural ties – this legislation plays an important role in sustaining their livelihoods until [drought] conditions improve.”

To read the full letter, please click here.