STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS -- (Senate - September 30, 2005)
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Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, today I join with Senator SNOWE, the chair of our committee, and our colleagues, Senators Landrieu and Vitter, to introduce a bill to help small businesses that have been damaged, physically and economically, by one or both of the hurricanes that have destroyed the gulf region over the past four or five weeks.
Our colleagues should feel very comfortable voting for this bill. The need is undeniable, based not only on what we see on television every day and read in the papers but also based on the testimony of small businesses and governors at hearings held in the Senate, in our committee last week, and this week before the Finance Committee. Further, 96 Senators voted for very similar legislation 2 weeks ago.
This bill is very similar to the amendment (S.A. 1695) that Senator Landrieu and I offered to the fiscal year 2006 appropriations bill for the Departments of Commerce, Justice, and Science, and that passed the Senate by a vote of 96 to 0 on September 15 as part of the compromise amendment (S.A. 1717) that I put forth with Senators Snowe, Landrieu, and Vitter. We offered those amendments to the appropriations bill because relief for small businesses had not been provided for in the two emergency supplementals. Two bills, worth some $63 billion, and nothing designated for small businesses.
It is through the Small Business Administration that disaster loan assistance is available, not just for businesses but for homeowners and renters, and it is through the Small Business Administration that the Federal Government provides the full complement of assistance to the small businesses in our Nation. The SBA is indispensable to the recovery of the gulf region after Hurricane Katrina. If the administration is not going to provide small business relief in the emergency spending bills it sends to Congress, this is absolutely appropriate.
We have got to get into law, and to fund, relief for small businesses before Senators go home for a week break in October. These folks have waited too long. We have got to get people back to work.
Since Hurricane Katrina hit, the gulf has had the extreme misfortune of being hit by Hurricane Rita. And this bill reflects the damage caused by going a bit further to take care of those small businesses, too. It also incorporates provisions requested by the administration. For example, at the request of the administration, the bill authorizes the Small Business Administration to make economic injury disaster loans nationwide to any small business directly and adversely impacted by Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Rita. The bill limits eligibility of economic injury disaster loans to those small businesses suffering economic losses because of the spikes in gasoline and natural gas and heating oil related to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. That is consistent with all other provisions in this bill. We also increased the amount of funding for grants to the States from $400 million to $450 million, to reflect the increased damage and delays in recovery caused by Hurricane Rita. We also repeal some contracting provisions enacted as part of the second supplemental that were anti-small business and would have resulted in millions of contracting dollars lost for small businesses that should be getting Federal contracts to rebuild the area. The small businesses don't just need loans; they need work to get revenue flowing again and to hire again, creating local jobs.
Mr. President, I extend great thanks to my colleagues, Senators Snowe, Landrieu, and Vitter for their work on this bill. I think we have demonstrated to a weary public that we can work together, and I hope that our colleagues in the Senate and in the House and the President will join us and vote to make this law and to fund it.