Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, today I rise to introduce emergency legislation to help small non-farm businesses across this Nation that are in dire straits because of drought conditions in their State. They need assistance, particularly access to working capital to pay the bills and meet payroll, but they can't get it because they are falling through the cracks of Federal disaster loan programs.

Why? Well, this is hard to believe, but it is because a drought is not considered a disaster under the Small Business Administration's disaster loan program, and under the Department of Agriculture's disaster program, which does consider a drought a disaster, only agriculture-related businesses are eligible for disaster assistance.

This assistance is critical to the survival of thousands of small businesses that make their living in tourism and recreation industries, as well as other industries dependent on water. Droughts are a cruel phenomenon of nature. They are out of the control of a small business owner, and it isn't fair that they aren't eligible for Federal disaster assistance but the victims of floods, fires, and hurricanes are.

With a very small change, we can make all the difference to affected small businesses. Specifically, I propose amending the Small Business Act in order to make a drought a disaster.

More than 30 States are struggling with drought right now, according to the National Drought Mitigation at the University of Nebraska, and far more than agricultural, forestry and livestock businesses are hurt. If you talk to the governors of your States, I am sure they will tell you how bad the situation is. In northern Massachusetts, we have been in a drought since last fall. In South Carolina, the conditions are so bad that small businesses dependent upon lake and river tourism have seen revenues drop anywhere from 17 to 80 percent. The victims range from fish and tackle shops to rafting businesses, from restaurants to motels, from marinas to gas stations. For those who are listening and discount the serious impact of drought on small businesses, ask the rafting businesses that went bankrupt in Texas in 1996. The rivers were so low that these established businesses lost everything.

I thank my colleagues who are cosponsors, Senators Hollings, Landrieu, Baucus, Bingaman, Daschle, and Johnson. I invite my other colleagues with droughts in their States to cosponsor this bill and call on the Administration to work with our Committee in passing this emergency legislation before we go home for the break in August. These small businesses cannot wait.

I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.