Friday, January 19, 2007

Kerry Vows to Seek Additional Funding For Disaster Loan Program at SBA

The N.Y. Times reported yesterday that the biggest program the federal government has in helping "people rebuild after natural disasters" is that the program "verge of running out of operating money because of budgeting problems at the agency that runs it, the Small Business Administration."

John Kerry, Chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, said Thursday that he would "immediately work with Senate and House leaders to secure additional funding for the disaster loan program run by the Small Business Administration (SBA)."

Kerry said that legislation he introduced earlier this year would help prevent the SBA program from running into problems in future years, primarily by pushing the agency to develop a more transparent budget by forcing regular updates on funding levels. Kerry made his remarks following news reports suggesting that the loan program, which is critical in parts of the country that are weathering storms or floods, may run out of funding before the end of the year.

“There is no excuse for allowing such a vital program to fall into disarray,” said Kerry. “I want to make sure we provide sufficient funding for the disaster loan program to keep it running this year and more importantly, to make sure that we don’t run low on funds in future years.”

Earlier this month, Kerry reintroduced the bipartisan legislation with Sens. Olympia Snowe (R- Maine), Mary Landrieu (D–La.), and David Vitter (R- La.), which Snowe and Kerry first introduced during the last Congress. It would require the SBA to report to Congress on the fiscal status of its well-worn Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loan program. In addition, the Small Business Disaster Response and Loan Improvements Act of 2007 (S. 163) would require SBA to report to Congress:

    · Monthly on the fiscal status of the disaster loan program, including how long funding for this program will be available

    · Daily on lending activity for any major disaster that is declared by the president

    · By May 1st on the agency’s progress developing a comprehensive hurricane response plan

The bill would also require the SBA to notify the Small Business Committee whenever the agency is in danger of running out of funding.

Kerry’s bill follows the SBA’s disclosure that, if left untouched, the disaster loan program has sufficient funding to last only through February. If administrative funding runs dry, the program would have to shut down, leaving victims of disasters without assistance as they look to rebuild their homes and businesses.

In addition to introducing this bipartisan proposal, Kerry is working with appropriators to identify a way for the disaster loan program to remain funded.

The N.Y. Times reported that Kerry said in a statement Wednesday on the program, "The administration mismanaged the response to Katrina from Day 1. We need legislation to overhaul the program and make it work efficiently for every business owner and homeowner in the country.”


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