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Kerry: Bush Short-Changes Gulf Small Businesses Again

by Pamela Leavey

Bush is out of touch reality and fails Small Business again…

Today Senator John Kerry criticized the Bush Administration for sending up a third Hurricane relief proposal that is out of touch with the needs of the estimated 200,000 small businesses struggling to stay in business or reopen after the disasters.

“This is the White House’s third funding request for Hurricane Katrina relief, and all three cheat small businesses and the people who work for them,” said Kerry, top Democrat on the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. “How long will it take before this Administration realizes that the key to the Gulf Coast’s recovery is rebuilding the small business economy?”

Two weeks ago, Kerry wrote a letter with Senators Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), and David Vitter (R-La.) to the head of the Office of Management and Budget asking the Administration to redirect to small businesses $720 million of the $42 billion sitting idle at FEMA. In this latest Hurricane Katrina funding request, the Administration agreed to redirect some money, but ignored the Senators’ comprehensive solution.

Of the $17 billion redirected from unused Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds, the Administration only requested money for the SBA’s disaster loan program. That funding is insufficient to meet the needs of small businesses, which are also clamoring for contracting assistance, SBA counseling, and bridge funding from the states.

Kerry joined Snowe in introducing bipartisan legislation to fund small business assistance programs that have been neglected by the Bush Administration’s Hurricane Katrina requests. The Small Business Hurricane Relief and Reconstruction Act, S.1807, would authorize bridge grants and loans, defer payments on existing small business loans, and increase funding for disaster loans for small businesses in the damaged areas. The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Landrieu, Vitter, Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), and Jim Talent (R-Mo.). The Senate voted 96-0 to pass a similar version of the bill as part of the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) FY2006 Appropriations Act, which is now in conference.

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