Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, last Friday, June 24, the full Senate voted to pass amendment No. 825, the Small Business and Farm Energy Emergency Relief Amendment of 2005, to the Energy bill, H.R. 6. I thank my colleagues for supporting my amendment. I want to also thank the cosponsors, Senators Reed, Snowe, Kohl, Levin, Baucus, Jeffords, Harkin, Pryor, Schumer, Lautenberg, Kennedy, and Lieberman.

Mr. President, the purpose of this amendment is to help small businesses and small farms struggling to make ends meet with the record high cost of energy – natural gas, heating oil, gasoline, propane, kerosene. We can do this very easily by making those small businesses eligible to apply for low-cost disaster loans through the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program. To help small farms and agricultural businesses, Senator Kohl has included a provision making them eligible for loans through a similar loan program at the Department of Agriculture. It also includes a provision by Senator Levin, passed unanimously last time this was considered in Committee and the full Senate to promote the use of alternative energy sources.

The need for this type of safety net is clear. The volatile and significant rise in cost for these fuels over the past several years has threatened the economic viability and survival of many small businesses. For example, last week the spot price for oil hit a record high of $58.90, a cost when adjusted for inflation that has not been seen in over 20 years. This is raising the price of gasoline, with the average U.S. price now at $2.16 per gallon, an increase of 22 cents compared to last year. The cost of home heating oil has jumped as much as 45 percent, and the natural gas market is likely to tighten over the next few months as summer cooling demand picks up. Prices are projected to continue to increase as the winter heating season boosts natural gas demand.

As we’ve heard in testimony after testimony, these prices hurt small manufacturers that rely heavily on natural gas and cite energy costs as one of the top three factors driving them out of business. These prices hurt farmers that rely on natural gas and propane and gasoline to run their farms and produce crops. And these prices hurt small heating fuel dealers in the northeast.

Most small companies typically have small cash flows and narrow operating margins and simply don’t have the reserves to compensate for significant and unexpected spikes in operating costs. For those businesses financially harmed by the energy prices, they need access to capital to mitigate or avoid serious losses or going out of business. Commercial lenders typically won’t make loans to these small businesses because they often don’t have the increased cash flow to demonstrate the ability to repay the loan.

Mr. President, there has been a bi-partisan push for this assistance in Congress twice in the past few years. In the 107th Congress, in 2001, I introduced virtually the same bill, S. 295, and was joined by 34 cosponsors to pass it in the full Senate. Of those who voted to pass the bill, 77 are still in the Senate, including 37 Republicans. Most recently, in November, during the consideration of the mega funding bill, the FY2005 Omnibus Appropriations Conference Report, Senator Reed, as head of the Senate Northeast-Midwest Coalition, worked to have a version of this amendment adopted as part of the that bill. Seventeen Senators signed a letter to Chairmen Stevens and Gregg, and Ranking Members Byrd and Hollings requesting its inclusion. It makes no sense, but out of 3,000 pages of legislation and almost $400 billion in spending, this assistance was not included because the Administration objected. The little guy was not helped.

As frustrating as that is, and while it would have been most helpful to these businesses – from small heating oil dealers to small manufacturers – to enact the legislation in November when the prices were at an all-time high, we can still be helpful now.

In that spirit, along with my colleagues mentioned earlier, I am very pleased to have offered the Small Business and Farm Energy Emergency Relief Act of 2005, S. 269, as an amendment to that energy bill. I ask my colleagues in the Senate and House to preserve the provision in the final bill – conference – as they work out differences between the two sides.

Mr. President, we have built a very clear record over the years on how this legislation would work and why it is needed. I am glad that my colleagues have gotten behind this bill and have put us one step close to making this law in the near future. In the past, this assistance has received bipartisan support and I am glad that this year is not different.

I ask unanimous consent that my statement, a copy of a bi-partisan letter of support, and a copy of the cosponsors from past bills be printed in the Record.