EMERGENCY TAX RELIEF FOR HURRICANE KATRINA VICTIMS -- (Senate - September 15, 2005)
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Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I thank Senate Finance Chairman GRASSLEY and Ranking Member BAUCUS for their extraordinary work, to so expeditiously draft this important legislation in a bipartisan manner. This package will provide immediate tax relief to those directly affected by this incredible disaster.
As we have rightfully focused on rescuing, reuniting and rebuilding, we must also make sure to take care of our strained military families. The first and best definition of patriotism is keeping faith with those who wear our uniform. That means giving our troops the resources they need to keep safe while they are keeping us safe. And it means supporting our troops at home as well as abroad.
More than 40 percent of military reservists and National Guard memberssuffer pay cut when they are called to defend our Nation, including those serving in the gulf coast today. These citizens serve nobly. They are much more than weekend warriors. Currently, there are over 140,000 reservists called up for active duty in the war against terrorism and over 10,000 of these reservists and guardsman are from Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. Over 50,000 National Guard members have been called up to assist with Hurricane Katrina.
Many of these reservists are being hit with a double-whammy. After recent service in Iraq or Afghanistan, they are coming home to an area that has been devastated. The all-volunteer Army depends on these reservists. They have been serving our country with distinction and pride for many years, and should not be penalized financially for their honorable service.
Businesses on the gulf coast want to do the right thing for their employees. But in the wake of this disaster, most just can't afford it. This legislation will help businesses do the right thing. The bill will provide an employee retention credit which provides a 40 percent tax credit for wages paid up to $6,000 after August 28, 2005 and before December 31, 2005. This credit will help employers in the gulf coast who pay employees that are not able to work because the business was either damaged or destroyed and pay reservists and guardsmen that worked for them right up to the time before they were deployed.
For the last couple of years, Senator LANDRIEU and I have worked on legislation to provide assistance to businesses that employ reservists who have been called up to active duty. That legislation would provide tax credits to employers who pay reservists wages that are above their military pay and to help with the costs of hiring replacement workers. I thank Chairman GRASSLEY and Ranking Member BAUCUS for working with me to include wages paid to eligible reservists and guardsman as part of the employee retention tax credit.
The Hurricane Katrina tax relief legislation helps our reservists and the businesses that employ them to ensure that our great tradition of citizen soldiers does not fade or end because of the effect service can have on work and family in this time of crisis.
I am also pleased that this tax package has a set of provisions to encourage charitable giving. We have all been overwhelmed by the generosity and compassion of the American people, who have sacrificed their time and money, sent food and supplies south by the truckload, and even opened up their homes to strangers. This provision will make giving easier, particularly by allowing rollover contributions from IRA accounts.
This legislation is the right thing to do in the face of this disaster. It can help make sure our reservists' families don't have to sacrifice beyond their means while our brave men and women are away from home helping other families. This legislation can make it easier for the incomparable generosity of the American people to continue by easing some restrictions on charitable giving.
Again, I thank Senators GRASSLEY and BAUCUS for their efforts on this package.