Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, today I am joined by my colleagues, Senator Daschle, Senator Cleland, and Senator WELLSTONE, in introducing legislation, the Small Business Telecommuting Act, to assist our nation's small businesses in establishing successful telecommuting, or telework programs, for their employees. Congressman UDALL will be introducing companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

Across America, numerous employers are responding to the needs of their employees and establishing telecommuting programs. In 2000, there were an estimated 16.5 million teleworkers. By the end of 2004, there will be an estimated 30 million teleworkers, representing an increase of almost 100 percent. Unfortunately, the majority of growth in new teleworkers comes from organizations employing over 1,500 people, while just a few years ago, most teleworkers worked for small- to medium-sized organizations.

By not taking advantage of modern technology and establishing successful telecommuting programs, small businesses are losing out on a host of benefits that will save them money, and make them more competitive. The reported productivity improvement of home-based teleworkers averages 15 percent, translating to an average bottom-line impact of $9,712 per teleworker. Additionally, most experienced teleworkers are determined to continue teleworking, meaning a successful telework program can be an important tool in the recruitment and retention of qualified and skilled employees. By establishing successful telework programs, small business owners would be able to retain these valuable employees by allowing them to work from a remote location, such as their home or a telework center.

In addition to the cost savings realized by businesses that employ teleworkers, there are a number of related benefits to society and the employee. For example, telecommuters help reduce traffic and cut down on air pollution by staying off the roads during rush hour. Fully 80 percent of home-only teleworkers commute to work on days they are not teleworking. Their one-way commute distance averages 19.7 miles, versus 13.3 miles for non-teleworkers, meaning employees that take advantage of telecommuting programs are, more often than not, those with the longest commutes. Teleworking also gives employees more time to spend with their families and reduces stress levels by eliminating the pressure of a long commute.

Our legislation seeks to extend the benefits of successful telecommuting programs to more of our nation's small businesses. Specifically, it establishes a pilot program in the Small Business Administration, SBA , to raise awareness about telecommuting among small business employers and to encourage those small businesses to establish telecommuting programs for their employees.

Additionally, an important provision in our bill directs the SBA Administrator to undertake special efforts for businesses owned by, or employing, persons with disabilities and disabled America veterans. At the end of the day, telecommuting can provide more than just environmental benefits and improved quality of life. It can open the door to people who have been precluded from working in a traditional office setting due to physical disabilities.

Our legislation is also limited in cost and scope. It establishes the pilot program in a maximum of five SBA regions and caps the total cost to five million dollars over two years. It also restricts the SBA to activities specifically proscribed in the legislation: developing educational materials; conducting outreach to small business; and acquiring equipment for demonstration purposes. Finally, it requires the SBA to prepare and submit a report to Congress evaluating the pilot program.

Several hurdles to establishing successful telecommuting programs could be cleared by enacting our legislation. In fact, the number one reported obstacle to implementing a telecommuting program is a lack of know-how. Our bill will go a long way towards educating small business owners on how they can draft guidelines to make a telework program an affordable, manageable reality.