Small Business Relief Act on Hold

With an anonymous hold preventing consideration of a bill to aid small businesses affected by the terrorist attacks, small business waits its turn for relief.

By Karen E. Spaeder

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

It's been more than three months since Sen. John Kerry(D-MA), chairman of the Committee on Small Business &Entrepreneurship, introduced his bill to aid small businessesimpacted by the terrorist attacks--and it looks like America'ssmall businesses will have to wait until the new year to find outwhether they'll see their share of economic relief. With Senaterules allowing individual senators to unilaterally stop action onbills by placing anonymous "holds" on them, a fewRepublican senators elected to stall consideration of the AmericanSmall Business Emergency Relief and Recovery Act of 2001 (S.1499),which would leverage $860 million in federal dollars to makeavailable $25 billion in loans and venture capital to ailing smallbusinesses.

In response, Kerry placed a hold on Senate consideration ofseveral non-judicial White House nominations to federal office inan effort to force Senate action on S.1499. In a letter to MajorityLeader Tom Daschle (D-SD), Kerry pledged to continue to pressureSenate Republicans and the White House to respond until partisangames are set aside and small businesses get some much-neededeconomic relief.

"It took the Senate a week to provide billions in abail-out to the ailing airline industry, and I voted for it becauseit was critical to keep the airlines up and running," Kerrypointed out back in November. "Now some are working fast andfuriously to provide relief to the insurance industry, and theHouse took just days to pass billions upon billions in giveaways tosome of the largest, wealthiest, most heavily subsidizedcorporations and oil and gas companies in America. Why wouldCongress stall as thousands of small businesses gasp for reliefwhile trying to fend off bankruptcy?"

Yesterday, Kerry met with Administration officials in an attemptto work out differences and come to a compromise, according toDayna Hanson of the Small Business Committee's Press Office.The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) refused to come to anagreement on key parts of the bill, however, and one anonymous holdremains in place.

Whether a compromise can be found is not clear--but what isclear is that small businesses are hurting. "The key word hereis emergency," Kerry told his Senate colleagues December 11."Small businesses need help now--they have needed help sincethe terrorist attacks three months ago. It is not the time to usebackdoor tactics to deny the Senate the ability to deliver criticalemergency aid. I'm asking my Republican colleagues to stopobstructing this legislation and pass [it] today."

Karen E. Spaeder

Karen E. Spaeder is a freelance business writer in Southern California.

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