Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I come to the floor today to introduce the Military Reservist Small Busine ss Relief Act of 1999. I offer it on behalf of myself and 30 other colleagues: Senators Bond, Bingaman, Landrieu, Harkin, Lieberman, Wellstone, Kohl, Burns, Robb, Edwards, Levin, Graham, Snowe, Akaka, Murray, Cleland, Kennedy, Jeffords, Collins, Abraham, Leahy, Baucus, Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, Grassley, Moynihan, Lincoln, Bayh, Chafee, Lautenberg, Cochran, and Daschle. I thank these Senators for their support.

Mr. President, a number of those colleagues I listed serve on either the Small Business Committee, the Armed Services Committee or on the Veterans Affairs Committee. However, all have joined me in a universal concern that I think goes across the aisle for the problems that reservists face when they are called suddenly to active duty. This bill will help small businesses whose owner, manager, or key employee is called to active duty. Most immediately, we are obviously looking at the question of service in Kosovo, but the act also applies to future contingency operations, military conflicts, or national emergencies.

Since 1973, we have taken pains as a result of the Vietnam experience to build an all-volunteer military. Our reservists are much more than just weekend warriors. When they are called, they are an essential ingredient of any kind of long-term or significant deployment of American forces. I think everyone knows the contributions they have made as soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and Coast Guard, serving our country in extraordinary ways in recent years.

The National Guard and the Reservists have become a critical component of U.S. force deployment. In the Persian Gulf war they accounted for more than 46 percent of our total forces. The Acting Assistant Secretary for Defense for Reserve Affairs just Tuesday said that "Reservists are absolutely vital to our national military strategy."

To support the NATO operations in the Balkans, Secretary of Defense Cohen has asked for and received the authorization to call up members of the Selected Reserve to active duty. President Clinton has authorized deployment of 33,000 reservists, but the initial callup includes only about 2,100 personnel. These first reservists come from Alabama, Arizona, California, Kansas, Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. A total of 1.4 million Americans currently serve in our seven Reserve components of the U.S. Armed Forces.

When these folks are called up, even though they know they are in the Reserves and even though they know at some point in time they might be called to meet an emergency of our country, the fact is that nothing prepares their families or them for the remarkably fast transition that takes place. There are obviously emotional and personal hardships people have to deal with, but in addition to that there are significant financial realities.

I have heard first-hand, talking to a number of vets who suffered this callup process, how difficult it is. One veteran told the "Boston Globe" on the 1-year anniversary of the Persian Gulf War:

The Gulf War is going to wind up having caused a lot of stress for me personally and for my family. It didn't just take a year out of my life. It's going to take a minimum of another two years, because that's how long it's going to take for us to catch up.

I think it is imperative that we help these families and communities to bridge the gap between the moment when the troops leave and when they return. We are talking about people who fill all of the normal, everyday positions of commerce that help to keep this country strong--bankers, barbers, mechanics, merchants, farmers, doctors, Realtors, owners of fast food restaurants--all kinds of positions that reservists hold and ultimately leave when they go to active duty.

As some veterans of the Persian Gulf War know all too well, they left their businesses and th eir companies in good shape. They were earning a living, they were providing a service, they were adding to the tax base, they were creating jobs, and then they returned to hardships that range from bankruptcy to financial ruin; from deserted clients to layoffs.

Even if you are not a small business owner, one has to ask what happens to one's family or to one's business or com pany during a 6- to 7-month deployment if you or your key employee suddenly has to depart. Particularly in rural areas and small towns it can be extremely difficult to find a replacement.

Let me share with you just one very quick story from my part of the country. For privacy purposes I am not going to use any names. However, I am going to talk about a physician from Raynham, MA. He was a lieutenant commander in the Navy Reserve and was called up for Operation Desert Storm as a flight surgeon in January 1991. For 10 years he had been a solo practitioner. After only 6 months of service, he had to file bankruptcy. That bankruptcy affected not only him but his wife, his two employees, and their families. After 1 year on duty, he came home and he found he literally had no business, no clients at that point in time, and no job--no income as a consequence.

We do not know for how long reservists will be called away, but whenever they return, we ought to make certain, to the degree we can, that the negative impacts are as minimal as possible. There is a way to do that. The way to do it is through this legislation.

What we seek to do is to authorize the SBA, the Small Business Administration, to defer existing loan repayments and to reduce the interest rates on direct loans that may be outstanding to those who are called up. That would include disaster loans. The deferrals and reductions that are authorized by this bill would be available from the date that the individual reservist is called to active duty until 180 days after his or her release from that duty.

For microloans and loans guaranteed under the SBA's financial assistance programs, such as the 504 program or 7(a) loan programs, the bill directs the agency to develop policies that encourage and facilitate ways that SBA lenders can either defer or reduce loan repayments.

For example, a microlender's ability to repay its debt to the SBA is obviously dependent upon the repayments from its microborrowers. So, with this bill's authority, if a microlender extends or defers loan repayment to a borrower who is a deployed military reservist, in turn the SBA would extend repayment obligations to the microlender.

Second, the bill establishes a low-interest, economic injury loan program to be administered by the SBA through its disaster loan program. These loans would be specifically available to provide interim operating capital to any small business when the departure of a military reservist for active duty causes economic injury. Under the bill, such harm includes three general cases: No. 1, inability to make loan repayments; No. 2, inability to pay ordinary and necessary operating expenses; or, No. 3, inability to market, produce or provide a service or product that it ordinarily provides.

Identical to the loan deferral requirements, an eligible small business can apply for an economic injury loan from the date that the company's military reservist is ordered to active duty, again until 180 days after the release from active duty.

Finally, the bill directs the SBA, and all of its private sector partners, such as the small busine ss develo pment centers, the women's business centers, to make positive efforts--proactive efforts--to reach out to those businesses affected by the call-up of military reservists to active duty, and to offer business counse ling and training. Those left behind to run the businesses, wheth er it is a spouse or a child or an employee, while the military reservist is serving overseas, may be inexperienced in running the business and need quick access to management and marketing counseling. We think it is important to do what we can to help bring those folks together, to keep the doors of the business open, and to reduce the impact of a military conflict and national emergency on the economy.

Some people might argue--I have not heard this argument sufficiently--but it is not inconceivable that some people would say: Wait a minute now, reservists do not deserve this special assistance because they ought to know the inherent risks of their chosen role and they ought to be prepared for deployment.

It is true you may live with those possibilities and those probabilities. It is also true it is very hard to pick up from the moment of notification to the moment of departure in as little as 3 days, pulling all the pieces together sufficiently. During the Persian Gulf war, one reservist's wife, Mrs. Carolee Ploof of Middlebury, VT, reported that her family had 3 days to prepare for her husband's departure. She said: "How do you prepare [for that]? I really think it's unfair that self-employed people have to lose their shirts to protect their country." So, from the moment her husband was mobilized, he reported for duty until 10 p.m. and then went home to try to teach his wife how to run the business--all in 48 hours before he was to depart.

I think we should understand we are talking here about loans and extensions on loans. We are not talking about forgiveness, and we are not talking about grants. We are talking about a hand up, not a hand-out. We are talking about trying to facilitate what is obviously a very difficult process.

Finally, let me just say we are the people who designed the policy that made it so our military deployments for significant kinds of conflicts are, in fact, so Reserve-dependent. We did that for a lot of good reasons, not the least of which is that we have a great tradition in this country of citizen soldiers--a voluntary civilian component of our military service. We also know it is a significant way to reduce the costs of a standing army. The costs of carrying a standing army, in lieu of having reservists as the important component they are, millions of times outweighs the very small, targe ted help we are talking about in this legislation.

I thank my 30 other colleagues who are cosponsors of this bill. I hope that this legislation will move very rapidly through the Senate so reservists will know, and their families will know, that, should there be a greater deployment in the future, it will not come with the kind of loss, or double hit if you will, for the notion of service to our country.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent the text of the bill be printed in the Record.