WASHINGTON - Before a panel that included the Massachusetts Commissioner of the Office of Child Care Services, Ardith Wieworka, the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship today reviewed the Child Care Business Lending Pilot Act of 2003, legislation sponsored by Senator John Kerry that will allow non-profit child care facilities to apply for low, fixed rate interest loans through the Small Business Administration's community development initiative, the 504 program.

"Every day, millions of parents have no other choice but to send their children to dilapidated, outdated, and unsafe child care facilities because it is all they can afford," said Kerry. "Non-profit child care facilities, many of which offer Head Start and Early Head Start Education programs, cannot rely on grants and donations alone. Low-interest, fixed rate loans will allow them to fix a leaky roof, remove asbestos replace lead-based paint, or add facilities that are handicap accessible."

Introduced by Kerry two weeks ago, the bill will use the SBA's 504 loan program to spur the establishment and expansion of child care providers. As the law currently stands, only for-profit businesses are eligible to apply, yet in some states, the majority of child care is offered through non-profit providers. In the neediest communities, non-profits are often the only facilities that offer child care services. For various reasons, from eligibility for state lunch programs to state child care reimbursement plans, many childcare providers are forced to organize as non-profits.

Allowing non-profit child care providers to finance through the SBA would provide them access to loans with a fixed, affordable interest rate; long terms that keep the monthly costs low; and a minimal down payment -- all making the cost of the loan more affordable. Increasing access to this type of financing would encourage and make it possible for more non-profit child care providers to build, expand, or upgrade their facilities and equipment.

Senator Kerry developed this legislation following recommendations from his Advisory Committee on Child Care and Small Business, made up of child care and business leaders from across Massachusetts. His goal was to bring entrepreneurial resources to child care providers -- many of whom are women and minority business owners -- which in turn would improve the overall quality of child care programs. Kerry also teamed up with the U.S. Small Business Administration, Massachusetts District and the Massachusetts Office of Child Care Services to produce a guide for providers entitled The Business of Child Care. "When a child care provider is supported as both an educator and an entrepreneur, he or she must have the tools to strengthen our local economy and provide high quality care to our children," said Kerry.