Mr. President, I rise today to introduce the “Small Business Disaster Loan Reporting Act of 2007,” which will require the Small Business Administration to update its disaster response plan and to submit detailed disaster loan reports to the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee. This bill is a bipartisan effort, and I thank Ranking Member Snowe as well as Senators Landrieu, Vitter, and Lieberman for their efforts in bringing this bill together.

In the months since Hurricane Katrina, Rita and Wilma, I have worked with other members of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship to improve the SBA’s disaster loan program. We have introduced numerous drafts of this legislation, and each time our reform proposals have been blocked by the administration. While we continue to work toward passing this comprehensive reforms bill, we need to address some of the provisions that will assist Congress in assessing how the SBA’s disaster loan program is operating in the present.

SBA Administrator Steve Preston appeared before the House Committee on Small Business this morning and admitted that although the SBA has implemented widespread reforms in its operational approach to processing and disbursing disaster loans, there is no plan on paper to speak of that can be provided to Congress. To provide disaster victims with a quick and effective response in the aftermath of future disasters, we must continue to evaluate the SBA’s programs, building upon successes and making improvements when we identify agency flaws. It is imperative that the SBA review its disaster response plan in preparation for the 2007 hurricane season, and this bill requires the SBA to do so and to submit its changes to our Committee and the House Small Business Committee for review.

Last February, while thousands of Gulf Coast hurricane victims sat waiting for promised disaster relief to arrive, the SBA nearly ran out of money twice for its Disaster Assistance program. It required two emergency acts of Congress to keep the program running. Despite knowing about these funding issues well in advance, the SBA chose not to disclose the problem to its authorizing Committee until just before the issue came to a head. With greater coordination and transparency, Congress can work with the SBA to ensure that this essential disaster response program does not run the risk of shutting down. This bill requires the SBA to provide the Committee with detailed monthly and daily reports to update us on the program’s lending volumes as well as funding levels. It also requires the SBA to notify its oversight committees when it will be seeking supplemental funding. Making the disaster loan program transparent for our review is crucial in creating a system that provides timely and valuable assistance to victims of disasters, and this legislation will help to do that.

The SBA’s failure to act quickly and effectively in response to the devastation of the 2005 hurricanes was unacceptable, but as we have learned from the continuing devastation in those areas, long-term disaster assistance for our small businesses also requires attention to federal procurement requirements. Small businesses need to play a leading role in rebuilding these areas. This legislation requires the SBA to report to Congress the number of contracts awarded to small businesses following disaster declarations, because continued assistance and government contracts for small businesses in these areas help to empower entrepreneurs to make their homes and cities vibrant once again.

This bill will improve the SBA disaster loan program in allowing better congressional oversight to ensure the agency is giving entrepreneurs the tools they need to make a difference in their communities after a disaster.