Mr. KERRY . Mr. President, after one year of working to enact a program that emphasizes prevention over reaction in dealing with natural disasters, the bill Senator Cleland and I first introduced in the 105th Congress has made its way back to the Senate for our consideration and support. I ask my colleagues to vote for S. 388, the Disaster Mitigation Coordination Act of 1999. Your vote will help our nation's small businesses save money and prepare for natural disasters.

This bill establishes a 5-year pilot program that would make low-interest, long-term loans available to small business owners financing preventive measures to protect their businesses against, and lessen the extent of, future disaster damage. This pilot is designed to help those small businesses that can't get credit elsewhere and that are located in disaster-prone areas.

The small business pre-disaster mitigation loan pilot program would be run as part of the Small Business Administration's regular disaster loan program, testing the pros and cons of preparedness versus reaction. Currently, SBA's disaster loans are available for mitigation after a recent natural disaster. Those loans are also limiting because only 20 percent of an SBA disaster loan may be used to install new mitigation techniques that will prevent future damage. In contrast, this legislation would allow 100 percent of an SBA disaster loan to be used for mitigation purposes within any area that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has designated as disaster-prone. In Massachusetts, that includes Marshfield and Quincy, two coastal communities that are prone to flooding, rainstorms and Nor'easters.

I see a great need for this type of assistance in the small business community. Aside from avoiding inconveniences and disruptions, we know that there are cost-benefits to making meaningful improvements and changes to facilities before a disaster. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has a disaster mitigation program for communities, rather than businesses, we save two dollars of disaster relief money for each dollar spent on disaster mitigation.

Nationwide, whether you're a business in Florida or Massachusetts, this pilot would allow you to take out a loan to make the improvements to your building or office to protect against disasters. To lessen damage from hurricanes, it can mean constructing retaining and sea walls. To lessen damage from fires, it can mean adding sprinklers and flame-retardant building materials. And to lessen damage from floods, it can mean grading and contouring land or relocating the business.

The administration supports this pilot program and included it in President Clinton's budget request two years in a row--fiscal years 1999 and 2000. As the bill authorizes, the President requests that up to $15 million of the total $358 million proposed for disaster loans be used for disaster mitigation loans.

Senator Cleland and I introduced this same legislation in the last Congress. And although it passed committee and the full Senate without opposition, the House did not vote on its merits before the 105th Congress ended. I thank our friends in the House and my colleagues in the Senate for sharing our concern to meet the needs of our small business owners while also working to find solutions that are smarter, more pro-active and more cost-effective. Mr. President, I am pleased to be a cosponsor of this legislation and am hopeful it will pass the Senate today and that the President will soon sign it in to law.