Washington, D.C.—U.S. Senate Committee on Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-Md.), committee Chairman Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and U.S. Senators Angus King (I-Maine), John Kennedy (R-La.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Susan Collins (R-Maine) today introduced the Providing Resources for Emergency Preparedness and Resilient Enterprises (PREPARE) Act—legislation to reauthorize the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Pre-Disaster Mitigation Pilot Program to give small businesses the opportunity to take out low-interest loans for the purpose of proactively implementing mitigation measures to protect their property from future disaster related damage.
In addition to Senators Cardin, Rubio and King, the legislation is cosponsored by Senators John Kennedy (R-La.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Susan Collins (R-Maine).
“Communities are enduring stronger and more frequent storms due to climate change, so it is now more important than ever for small businesses to be prepared,” Ranking Member Cardin said. “I am proud to join Chairman Rubio and Senator King to introduce the PREPARE Act, which will empower small businesses to build resilience to survive natural disasters by proactively investing in hazard mitigation efforts.”
“The PREPARE Act would allow small businesses the opportunity to invest in mitigation before a disaster strikes,” Chairman Rubio said. “Investing in disaster mitigation on the front end saves business’, as well as taxpayers’, dollars, while reducing potential risks to property. I am proud to introduce this bipartisan, bicameral legislation that would improve the SBA’s previous program and allow businesses to be more prepared and more resilient in the future.”
“If we didn’t already know before, the coronavirus pandemic further proves that it’s much better to prepare for a potentially catastrophic disaster rather than having to react to one after it’s happened,” Senator King said. “That’s why Senator Rubio and I are introducing this bill to help our small businesses and local governments strengthen their physical infrastructure in case of a flood – an issue particularly important to coastal small businesses in Maine given their proximity to the ocean. Now more than ever, small business owners around the nation need peace-of-mind, and this bill will support that by providing funding to prepare for natural disasters to minimize their impact rather than only paying after the fact.”
“No one knows better than a Louisianian how to prepare for natural disasters, and this bill will make it easier for our small businesses to prevent loss. Too often, hardworking Americans are forced to weather storms first and federal bureaucracy second. I’m thankful to work with Sen. Rubio and colleagues to pass the PREPARE Act before another category four hurricane batters our state,” Senator Kennedy said.
“Between the derecho and recent flooding, natural disasters have caused significant challenges and economic harm to Iowa’s small businesses in recent years,” Senator Ernst said. “This bipartisan effort will help our small business owners access resources to protect their property from potential disasters, and help them avoid unforeseen expenses in the future.”
“With the rapidly growing climate crisis, our communities are being hit with bigger and more dangerous natural disasters. In the West, this wildfire season has brought tragedy and destruction with massive infernos leveling entire communities to ash,” Wyden said. “The federal government has an obligation to help our communities -- especially our small businesses and the hundreds of thousands of workers they employ -- mitigate the worst. Federal support for disaster preparation is especially important for states like my home state where small businesses are the backbone of the economy.”
“Small businesses are the engine of our economy, but one disaster could quickly wipe out a small business that a family spent years or even generations to build,” Senator Collins said. “This bipartisan bill would provide low-interest loans to allow small businesses to protect their property from future disasters, limiting potential damage and helping them to recover more quickly when catastrophes strike.”
“Across the nation, natural disasters continue to grow in frequency and severity, resulting in billions of dollars’ in damages to local communities and small businesses every year,” Adam Fortier-Brown, government relations manager at the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas said. “Now is precisely the right time for Congress to invest in common-sense solutions like the PREPARE Act to make our nation’s infrastructure and economy more resilient to repeated storm damages. “This bipartisan legislation equips small businesses, like recreational boat dealerships, with an important tool to invest in modern, disaster-resilient infrastructure so they can keep their doors open and continue to fuel job growth and prosperity in their local communities. Our industry commends Senator Rubio, Senator King, Senator Cardin, Senator Kennedy, Senator Ernst, Senator Wyden, and Senator Collins for their leadership on this critical issue.”
“Recreational boating businesses – most of which are small and family owned operations – are among the most susceptible to the devastation of erosion, rising water levels and many additional effects of climate change,” Nicole Vasilaros, senior vice president of government and legal affairs at the National Marine Manufacturers Association said. “Thanks to the leadership of Senator Rubio, Senator King, Senator Cardin, Senator Kennedy, Senator Ernst, Senator Wyden, and Senator Collins we are one step closer to passing the PREPARE Act and providing coastal communities with the resources they need to invest in climate-resilient infrastructure.”
“The marina and boatyard industry often faces the brunt of repeated natural disasters and flooding damages each year, which is why the PREPARE Act has wide-reaching benefits to our industry,” Eric Kretsch, legislative and outreach coordinator for the Association of Marina Industries said. “Small businesses constitute a large portion of our industry, and by nature, we’re located in vulnerable areas. The PREPARE Act will provide a key mechanism to marina and boatyard operators so they can upgrade their infrastructure and increase their resiliency to natural disasters. Thank you to Senator Rubio, Senator King, Senator Cardin, Senator Kennedy, Senator Ernst, Senator Wyden, and Senator Collins for their leadership on this important issue.”
“The many businesses that make up the marine industry in South Florida are no strangers to the disastrous effects of damage and flooding being at the epicenter of many of the seasonal hurricanes and tropical storms,” Lori Wheeler, vice president at the Marine Industries Association of South Florida said. “Passing the PREPARE Act will provide the means for businesses so affected to prepare better and recover more quickly. We applaud Senator Rubio, Senator King, Senator Cardin, Senator Kennedy, Senator Ernst, Senator Wyden, and Senator Collins efforts on this.”
The 2020 Atlantic Hurricane season has been so active that the National Hurricane Center has already exhausted the list of storm names. According to Federal Emergency Management Agency statistics, approximately 50 percent of small businesses close indefinitely following a disaster, and every $1 spent on mitigation saves taxpayers $6.
The PREPARE Act, which builds upon similar legislation introduced by U.S. Representative Joseph Morelle (D-NY), would:
- create an updated Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program for small business concerns to proactively take out a low-interest loan (up to $500,000) for the purpose of implementing mitigation measures to protect their property from future disaster related damage;
- authorize $25 million annually (FY2021 to FY2025);
- task SBA with establishing and carrying out an advertising and outreach program related to pre-disaster mitigation;
- task SBA with issuing guidance to ensure borrowers purchase and maintain insurance coverage over the duration of the loan;
- require SBA to conduct initial reporting and a program evaluation annually thereafter; and
- increase, from 20 to 30 percent, the limit on existing SBA Physical Business Disaster Loans a borrower may use towards post-disaster mitigation.