Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, today I join my colleague, Senator Max Cleland, in introducing the Disaster Mitigation Coordination Act of 1999, a bill that helps our nation's small bus inesses sav e money and prepare for natural disasters.

We can't prevent disasters, but we can take measures to lessen and prevent the destruction that often hurts, and sometimes destroys, small bus inesses. 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 know that we save two dollars of disaster relief money for each dollar spent on disaster mitigation.

I see a great need for this type of assistance in the small business community. This bill establishes a five-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 program 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. Up to $15 million will be set aside for this pilot if enacted.

Only a portion of SBA's regular disaster loans, up to 20 percent, are available for mitigation after a recent natural disaster. 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 has designated as disaster-prone. In Massachusetts, that includes Marshfield and Quincy, two coastal communities that are prone to flooding, rainstorms and Nor'easters.

Nationwide, whether you're a business in Missouri 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. For floods it can mean elevating the foundation or relocating. For tornados it can mean installing storm windows and building a stronger roof. For hurricanes it can mean reinforcing walls. And for fires it can mean adding sprinklers and flame-retardant building materials.

The Administration supports this pilot program and included it in Clinton's budget request this fiscal year, and again for fiscal year 2000. 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 have time to vote on its merits before the 105th Congress ended. I thank my colleagues, Senators Hollings, Conrad, Boxer, Daschle and Harkin for sharing our concern to meet the needs of our small bus iness own ers while also working to find solutions that are smarter, more pro-active and more cost-effective. Mr. President, I am pleased to cosponsor this legislation and am hopeful it will again receive the full support it deserves when it comes before the Senate this Congress.