Mr. KERRY . Mr. President, I would urge that there be no further delay, no further obstruction, and that the Senate act--at long last--to pass a bill that is very important to so many small businesses in this country crippled by the economic fall-out of September 11, including businesses that were already struggling before September 11 during the recession and are now faced with even more difficult prospects.

For months, tens of thousands of small businesses have been asking for help--an immediate helping hand--just to keep their businesses going--particularly working capital to meet payroll and pay the bills--but they have been forced to make ends meet by using credit cards and depleting personal savings because small businesses doesn't have the same access as big business--to credit or otherwise. Left in the lurch by congressional inaction and delay, these businesses and their employees paid the price.

Now it is time that the Senate delivers the relief the vast majority of us were prepared to deliver in the first weeks after September 11, urgent relief delayed by partisan gamesmanship.

My American Small Business Emergency Relief and Recovery Act has gotten a lot of attention over the past 5 months. It has been blocked from even a meaningful debate on the Senate floor. What makes this week different?

What makes it different is that we have reached final agreement with the White House on a compromise, thanks to our last resort--hardball tactics of our own--and the bill has at long last been cleared to pass the Senate by unanimous consent.

I thank the 63 cosponsors of this bill. I thank the numerous small businesses and small business advocates who have worked so hard and used so much of their limited resources to free this bill for passage. This diverse coalition of business leaders and Democratic and Republican policy makers have stood by us from day one--their support should have been enough to guarantee passage way back then, but it wasn't enough to stop some from playing partisan games with even bipartisan legislation. Now, at long last, the good faith efforts of our supporters are being rewarded.

It is my hope that having worked out our differences with the White House, we have cleared the way for passage not just through the Senate but also through the House. Once this help is enacted, small businesses will finally be able to receive desperately needed economic relief.

I am pleased with the compromise. It preserves provisions that are really important for those small businesses that have needed help over the past few months but fell through the cracks in SBA's disaster loan program, or fell through the cracks in the private sector where lenders have cut back on loans to small businesses over the past year.

It simply was not enough, not efficient, and not cost-effective to use only one of SBA's many lending programs to serve all the small businesses throughout this country that were hurt by the terrorist attacks or that have been struggling with the credit crunch. All of the SBA's tools should be used to help the affected small businesses, and this bill does just that. Because this bill was blocked from consideration, Senator Bond and I were forced to enact some of these provisions through a defense bill. I very much thank Senators BYRD and HOLLINGS for including them. Specifically, we made it possible for small businesses to get working capital loans through the SBA's 7(a) loan program. SBA is calling these ``STAR loans,'' and compared to the economic injury disaster loans, borrowers are accessing capital faster. In just seven weeks, since the loans were made available, nearly $38 million has been loaned to 129 small businesses. It reminds us that being able to go sit in the office of a lender in the same town is far more efficient and effective than requiring a small business in West Virginia or Puerto Rico to call a 1-800 number in Niagara Falls for emergency assistance.

One needs only to look at the record by comparison for economic injury disaster loans outside New York and Virginia to see the need for these STAR loans. After 22 weeks (nearly 6 months), only 2,600 loans have been approved, adding up to a denial rate of almost 50 percent . That doesn't even include the small businesses that were turned away before they even filled out an application because of outdated size standards. That has left a lot of small businesses across this country without assistance. A lot of small business owners turning are in their keys to the bank. As one small business advocate said today, in reference to the thousands of tour bus companies that went out of business, ``I understand the banks now own a wonderful fleet of tour buses.''

Well, for those small tour bus owners who have been waiting for this bill to pass and still need a working capital loan to ramp back up in the upcoming tour season, the compromise preserves the refinancing of business debt under a disaster loan. They need this so that they can restructure debt to survive this business slump. We fought very hard to keep this assistance in the bill.

For the owners of travel agencies--the majority of which are small businesses--we have increased the size standards for your industry so that more of your companies qualify for disaster loans and 7(a) emergency loans. Please spread the word to travel agencies that were turned away earlier in the year because they were considered too large. They might need working capital more than ever now that the airlines have completely eliminated commissions.

For small businesses that need access to credit and can't get it because of the credit crunch, Senator Bond and I were able make SBA's programs more affordable by reducing the fees borrowers pay through September 2004. In both the Senate and the House, we have had hearing after hearing trying to get fairer fees for the borrowers who need capital and the lenders who make loans, but until now we haven't gotten any cooperation. This bill will make a difference. Whether you need working capital through SBA's 7(a) loan program or credit to buy a building or equipment through SBA's 504 loan program, it will now be less expensive. Stimulating lending and borrowing is good for the economy because it creates jobs and saves jobs. By law, small businesses that borrower money through the SBA 504 loan program have to hire or retain on employee for each $35,000 borrowed. This is a win-win situation for our economy.

The overall purpose of this emergency legislation is to provide access to the full complement of SBA loans and business counseling in order to help small businesses hurt by the terrorist attacks of September 11th and their aftermath.

This legislation will help mitigate bankruptcies, business closures, and lay-offs and address the shrinking availability of credit. However, small businesses doing business with the Federal Government have also felt the impact of the terrorist attacks.

Small business contractors, because of very real and legitimate security concerns, have experienced a dramatic increase in costs for work in and around Federal Government facilities. We have heard reports of small businesses being denied access to their equipment on military bases, waiting for hours each day to enter government facilities and being limited in the hours they can work on their projects.

Let me cite the situation faced by Dave Krueger, President of AS Horner Construction, Inc. out of Albuquerque, NM. Dave was currently doing work on a Federal contract at an Air Force facility pouring concrete parking aprons. Immediately after the attack, his company was locked out of the facility for nearly 2 weeks and currently has limited hours to access the construction site. Dave estimates that this will result in cost increases of at least 10 percent, meaning he will take a loss on this contract.

Such situations cannot go unresolved. Small businesses are far too important, not just to our national economy, but to our national defense as well. Small business is a vital component of our national supply chain and essential to our national security interests. To address this, S. 1499 establishes an expedited procedure whereby Federal small business contractors can apply for an equitable adjustment to their contract if costs have been incurred due to security or other measures resulting from the terrorist attacks. In the interest of compromise, Senator Bond and I agreed to reduce the funding available for these provisions from $100 million to $50 million.

The Kerry -Bond approach has always been cost-effective--about five times cheaper than the administration's approach. CBO estimated that providing this assistance to small businesses would cost $860 million. The final compromise, based on CBO's estimates, is down from $860 million to $300 million.

This is a good compromise. It will help small businesses in every State. It is a reasonable approach that maximizes existing resources and private sector help. I strongly and respectfully urge my colleagues to let this legislation pass. Small businesses in your State will thank you.