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Kerry's Disaster Reform Law Will Benefit Massachusetts Businesses, Homeowners

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Location: Washington, DC


Kerry's Disaster Reform Law Will Benefit Massachusetts Businesses, Homeowners

House and Senate Override Bush Veto of Bill to Improve Disaster Aid

This week the U.S. House and Senate enacted into law legislation authored by Senator John Kerry to improve and expedite financial assistance to businesses and homeowners devastated by disasters. Since 2003, nearly 1,700 Massachusetts residents have received over $64 million in low-interest loans from the federal government after a disaster - including floods, fire and drought.

Yesterday, President Bush vetoed the Farm Bill, which includes provisions from Kerry's disaster loan program reform legislation (S. 163). The House and Senate both successfully voted to override the veto by 316-108 and 82-13. Kerry has been working on a bipartisan basis with Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) for more than two and a half years to enact the legislation.

"In recent years, fires, floods, and droughts have hit some Massachusetts communities especially hard," said Senator Kerry, Chairman of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. "When I toured the massive flooding in the Merrimack Valley two years ago, saw the 75 homes and businesses damaged by a chemical explosion in Danvers in 2006, and visited the businesses that lost their livelihoods in the Uxbridge Bernat Mill fire last July, I saw the need to cut through red tape and make the government better prepared to respond to disasters. Our law increases access to timely assistance for Massachusetts businesses and homeowners devastated by disaster, so that when the next tragedy strikes, residents can get back in their homes and back on their feet quickly."

Problems in the Small Business Administration's disaster loan program were exposed in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, where poor management and insufficient resources resulted in extensive delays in processing and disbursing financial assistance. In addition, Katrina showed the need for a "bridge" loan program to help businesses stay afloat until insurance or full loan payments can be made.

Over the last two years, several Massachusetts counties experienced severe flooding and drought conditions - including the worst flooding in Massachusetts in 70 years in the spring of 2006 - allowing residents to be eligible for the low-interest disaster loans. An explosion in Danvers and a mill fire in Uxbridge also resulted in federal disaster aid availability.

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