WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), lead Democrat on the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, today announced the Senate approved his Small Business Drought Relief Act, which will ensure all small businesses damaged by drought have access to low-interest loans through the Small Business Administration (SBA).

Kerry’s bill was included as an amendment to the Department of Defense (DOD) authorization bill, which passed the Senate yesterday by a vote of 98-0. The legislation would provide emergency aid to non-farm-related small businesses suffering from severe drought conditions.

"Small businesses devastated by droughts shouldn't have to struggle against an unresponsive SBA bureaucracy," Kerry said. "The SBA has ignored the damage droughts do to fishing guides, marinas, bait and tackle shops, and all kinds of small businesses. My amendment cuts through the red tape to get these businesses the loans they should already have had access to long ago."

This legislation will assist the small businesses in states with drought declarations that have been denied access to disaster loans through the SBA because the SBA only helps those small businesses whose income is tied to farming and agriculture. The Small Business Drought Relief Act will close this loophole. The loans will be for business-related purposes, including for paying bills and making payroll until business returns to normal. Currently, the SBA has made drought declarations in 17 states: Wisconsin, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, Montana, Oregon, Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa, Oklahoma, Illinois, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Kansas, and California.

Kerry’s legislation was cosponsored by Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), and it has received widespread bipartisan support among Governors and small businesses. The DOD authorization bill must now be reconciled in conference with the version of the DOD bill passed by the House of Representatives.