Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Sens. Kerry, Landrieu Call on Republicans to Stop Blocking Disaster Reform Bill

Today, Sens. John Kerry [D-Mass.] and Mary Landrieu [D-La., pictured] called on the Republican minority to stop blocking a critical loan bill that will improve assistance to business owners and homeowners after a disaster.

Kerry and Landrieu spoke on the Senate floor today, seeking unanimous consent to pass legislation that has bipartisan support -- including from the Bush Administration and every member of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. The committee’s ranking member, Olympia Snowe [R-Maine], and committee member David Vitter [R-La.] are cosponsors of the bill, and have worked with Kerry and Landrieu since September 2005 to craft this legislation.

“The Republicans standing in the way of passing this bill should be ashamed, because we can’t afford another Katrina-like response from the federal government,” said Kerry, committee chairman. “This bill has been fully vetted, has bipartisan support, and we’ve taken care to make changes to address every single concern raised. Yet, here we are today with Republicans blocking the very tools we need in Washington to get aid out to disaster victims quickly without red-tape bureaucracy.”

“Now, two months into what is predicted to be a very active hurricane season, this is not a time for partisan politics or procedural maneuvers; it is a time for action,” said Landrieu. “This bipartisan bill, which was unanimously reported out of committee, creates a better, more efficient SBA disaster response, and I urge my colleagues to help us move this important bill forward.”

The Small Business Disaster Response and Loan Improvements Act [S. 163] would:

* Establish a Private Disaster Loan program that allows banks to make loans directly to victims, with an 85 percent government guarantee;

* Create a new, expedited disaster assistance business loan program to provide short-term relief to businesses while they await other federal assistance or insurance payments;

* Create a new presidential declaration of “Catastrophic National Disaster,” which will allow the Small Business Administration [SBA] to issue nationwide economic-injury disaster loans to small businesses affected by a large-scale disaster;

* Provide key tools for processing disaster loan applications more quickly -- such as working with qualified private contractors to process the loans, and requiring the SBA to report to Congress on how the application process can be improved; and

* Increase the maximum size of a disaster loan from $1.5 million to $2 million, and allow non-profit groups to be eligible for disaster loans.

GoodBiz113's take: Small businesses of all political stripes deserve a helping hand when disaster stikes. S. 163 -- replete with ample bipartisan backing and support from the Bush administration -- should be passed and fully funded ASAP.

SOURCES: Library of Congress, U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Washington Post [photo]

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