WASHINGTON – One week into a hurricane season where experts predict up to 16 named storms, today Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) introduced legislation to address the shortfalls in the government’s critical Disaster Loan Program. Run by the Small Business Administration (SBA), the program provides low-interest loans to residents and businesses impacted by disasters – including hurricanes, floods, droughts, tornadoes, earthquakes, and terrorist attacks if a disaster is declared – and is key to aiding a devastated area’s long-term economic recovery. The legislation is cosponsored by Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).
“After the Administration’s woefully inadequate response to the Gulf Coast after Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma, we know Washington’s got to do a lot better. The Disaster Loan Program is critical to getting businesses reopened, neighborhoods on their feet, and families back in their homes. This legislation will hold the Administration accountable and expand loan assistance to speed up economic recovery,” said Kerry, top Democrat on the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.
Kerry’s Small Business Disaster Loan Reauthorization and Improvement Act includes the following provisions:
- Directs greater coordination between the SBA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency during disaster response;
- Increases SBA accessibility to disaster victims by directing SBA to create an outreach plan to increase awareness of its disaster relief program;
- Requires SBA to develop a Disaster Plan and practice simulation exercises for responding to a major disaster;
- Establishes a national model for providing bridge loans;
- Authorizes disaster loans to non-profits, including religious organizations;
- Provides a “Catastrophic National Disaster” declaration for nationwide Economic Injury Disaster Loans;
- Requires SBA to establish guidelines for assessing how to make home loans more accessible to victims;
- Grants Small Business Development Centers access to SBA disaster relief facilities to provide business counseling following a disaster;
- Bolsters congressional oversight of the SBA through regular Disaster Loan accounting reports;
- Establishes relief for small businesses experiencing high energy prices by providing disaster loans when prices are 40 percent above the average price level from the past two years; and
- Authorizes grants for military reservists’ small businesses with 10 or fewer employees impacted by call-ups.
To read Kerry's floor statement on this bill, click here.