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Mr. BARLETTA. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Just over a year ago, the people of the 11th Congressional District of Pennsylvania endured some of the worst flooding that we have ever experienced. In the aftermath of both a hurricane and a tropical storm, the Susquehanna River and streams flowing into it surged out of their banks, washing out homes and businesses and roads and bridges.
I spent days traveling across my district consoling my constituents. I was with them as they had to throw out photo albums, their children's toys, their clothing, their furniture, their lives' possessions. I stood on muddy porches and cried with my constituents.
Time after time they asked me how the Federal Government was going to help them recover. Time after time, business owners asked me if the Federal Government was able to provide low-interest loans so they could rebuild, reopen, and bring back their workers. Time after time, I would tell them the government of the United States was going to offer them loans at a 6 percent interest rate. That's right, 6 percent.
A 6 percent loan isn't going to help a business owner rebuild and reopen, and the hardworking people of northeastern Pennsylvania knew that. A 6 percent loan isn't going to help a family rebuild a flooded home. I was embarrassed to tell the mothers and fathers and grandmothers and grandfathers and business owners of my district that the Federal Government, through the Small Business Administration, was going to give them a 6 percent loan to help them get back on their feet.
I was even more embarrassed--and even shocked--when I started looking at our budget for foreign disaster relief. This government gave $215 million of flood relief to Pakistan. And what rate do we charge foreign countries when we rebuild their infrastructure? Zero percent. We don't charge foreign countries any interest. The taxpayer money they receive from the United States is a giveaway. But this government was going to charge American homeowners and American business owners 6 percent interest on loans they were going to use to rebuild.
Now, the United States of America is one of the most generous, compassionate countries when it comes to providing global aid. When disaster strikes anywhere in the world, the United States is the first country to help them rebuild. But when disaster strikes right here in our own country, we need to start rebuilding here first. Let's help Americans first. We must restore American lives, save American businesses, and protect American jobs.
Now, I know hundreds of my colleagues have had similar conversations with their constituents after they experienced natural disasters in their districts. Since the start of the 112th Congress, communities in over 200 congressional districts in 46 States have been flooded by a tropical storm or a hurricane, burned by wildfire, crippled by a snowstorm, or destroyed by a tornado, resulting in a disaster declaration by the President. Constituents across the country have heard the same news--the Federal Government can provide help in the form of a high-interest loan.
Fortunately, this is something that we can fix. I introduced the Disaster Loan Fairness Act of 2012, which would dramatically change the way the SBA provides disaster recovery loans. This bill would lower the interest rate for borrowers with no credit available elsewhere to one-half of the prevailing rate, and it would cap the interest rate at 4 percent. For those who can get credit elsewhere, this bill would lower the interest rate to three-quarters of the prevailing rate, again, capping the maximum interest rate at 4 percent.
The Disaster Loan Fairness Act is retroactive to January 1, 2011. This means the SBA is required to refund excess interest payments for disaster loans made since this date. Homeowners and business owners who took out these loans will receive refunds for their excess interest payments.
To offset the direct spending, this bill terminates the use of public taxpayer funds for political party conventions in the elections occurring after 2012. Simply put, this bill prioritizes disaster victims over the subsidizing of political party conventions. We are literally putting the American people ahead of politics.
This bill will provide serious, substantial, necessary help to the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have endured horrible loss during natural disasters. It will provide relief to the millions of Americans who will suffer loss in future disasters.
I ask my colleagues to support the Disaster Loan Fairness Act of 2012, H.R. 6296, and provide relief for so many Americans that need that help.
I reserve the balance of my time.
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