Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I am pleased today to join with my colleague, Senator Johnson, as well as the cosponsors of our legislation, Senators, Cantwell, Wellstone, Daschle, Baucus, Inouye, Bingaman, Stabenow, and Clinton in introducing the Native American Small Business Development Act.

This legislation bears the same name as legislation that passed the House last year, H.R. 2538, which was introduced by Congressman Tom Udall, a recognized leader in promoting the interests of American Indians. I would like to thank Congressman Udall for his work in stewarding H.R. 2538 through the House and for his assistance in working with Senator Johnson and me in drafting the Senate version of our legislation.

I would also like to thank the National Indian Business Association, the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development, the Association of Small Business Development Centers, ONABEN, Native American Management Services, Inc., and all of the tribes that met with us or provided information to help in the crafting of this legislation.

The Senate version of the Native American Small Business Development Act, while incorporating the heart of the Udall legislation, is more comprehensive and provides greater assistance to Native American communities. Senator Johnson, who serves on the Indian Affairs Committee, and I, as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, were able to combine our resources in crafting this legislation.

Our desire to fashion a comprehensive assistance package for Native American small businesses stems in no small part from an apparent lack of commitment the Small Business Administration (SBA) has shown to our Native American communities under the Bush Administration.

While I applaud the Bush Administration for responding to congressional requests and including $1 million in the Administration's fiscal year 2003 budget request for Native American outreach, I was disappointed that it did not seek the full level of $2.5 million requested in a letter I sent with my colleagues Senators Daschle, Wellstone, Johnson, Bingaman and Baucus. Our request specifically sought funding for the SBA's Tribal Business Information Center (TBIC) program, started under the Clinton Administration and designed to address the unique conditions faced by American Indians when they seek to start or expand small businesses.

I do not believe that anyone in this Congress would dispute that economic development in Indian Country has often been difficult to achieve and that one important way to help American Indians who live on reservations is to provide them with assistance to open and run their own small businesses. Helping Native Americans open and run small businesses not only instills a sense of pride in the owner and his or her community, it also provides much-needed job opportunities, as well as other economic benefits.

Although underfunded, the TBIC program has provided assistance to a number of small businesses on Indian reservations. TBICs have the support of the American Indian communities they serve because they provide desperately needed, culturally tailored business development assistance in those communities. The administration should be seeking to strengthen its commitment to programs that assist Native American communities. Unfortunately, the SBA cut off TBIC funding on March 31, 2002, and has not met a request by a bipartisan group of Senators to begin the reprogramming process in order to keep the TBICs open for the remainder of the fiscal year.

The Native American Small Business Development Act will ensure that the SBA's programs to assist Native American Affairs (ONAA) a permanent office, create a statutory grant program, known as the Native American Development grant program, to assist Native Americans, establish two pilot programs to try new means of assisting Native American communities and require Native American communities to be consulted regarding the future of SBA programs designed to assist them. In short, our legislation will ensure that our Native American communities will receive the assistance they need to help start and grow small businesses.

The ONAA, to be headed by an Assistant Administrator, will be responsible for assisting Native Americans and Native American communities to start, operate, and grow small business concerns; develop management and technical skills; seek Federal procurement opportunities; increase employment opportunities through the start and expansion of small business concerns; and increase their access to capital markets.

To be selected to serve as the Assistant Administrator for ONAA, a candidate must have knowledge of Native American cultures and experience providing culturally tailored small business development assistance to Native Americans. Under our legislation, the Assistant Administrator would be statutorily required to consult with Tribal Colleges and Tribal Governments, Alaska Native Corporations (ANC) and Native Hawaiian Organizations (NHO) when carrying out responsibilities under this legislation. The Assistant Administrator for ONAA would be responsible for administering the Native American Development program and the pilot programs created by the Native American Small Business Development Act.

The Native American Development program is designed to be the SBA's primary program for providing business development assistance to Native American communities. To offer this support, the SBA will provide financial and resource assistance to establish and keep Native American Business Centers (NABC) in operation. Financial assistance under the Native American Development program would be available to Tribal Governments and Tribal Colleges. Unlike the SBA's TBIC program, however, ANCs and NHOs would also be eligible for the grants.

NABCs would address the unique conditions faced by reservation-based American Indians, as well as Native Hawaiians and Native Alaskans, in their efforts to create, develop and expand small business concerns. Grant funding would be used by the NABCs to provide culturally tailored financial education assistance, management education assistance, and marketing education assistance.

The first pilot program under the legislation establishes a Native American development grant. This grant is modeled after the Udall legislation and designed to bring the expertise of SBA's Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) to Native American communities. Additionally, any private nonprofit organization, whose board of directors consists of a majority of Tribal Government members or their designees, is an NHO or an ANC, may also apply for the grant. Nonprofits were included in the Senate version thanks to the thoughtful input of Senator Cantwell. Many American Indian communities in Washington State are served by an organization called ONABEN, which provides SBDC-like services to Native American communities in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and California. Organizations like ONABEN should be encouraged to provide resources to Native American communities, and including them in the grant program available to SBDCs was an important addition to the legislation.

Finally, our legislation establishes a second pilot program to try a unique experiment in Indian County. Grant funding would be made available to establish American Indian Tribal Assistance Centers. These centers will consist of joint entities, such as a partnership between an NABC, a Native American development center (which receive grants from the Department of Commerce) and possibly an SBDC. The purpose of this grant is to bring together experts from various entities to provide culturally tailored business development assistance to prospective and current owners of small business concerns on or near Tribal Lands.

I would again like to thank Senator Johnson and all of the cosponsors of this important legislation to assist our Native American communities. I would also, again, like to thank Congressman Udall for taking the lead in the House on providing critical assistance for small businesses in Native American communities. I would urge all of my colleagues to cosponsor this legislation to help us fulfill our commitment to Native American communities.