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September 25, 2020

Senators King, Rubio Introduce PREPARE Act to Help Small Businesses Weather Natural Disasters

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Angus King (I-Maine) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) led a bipartisan group of their Senate colleagues to introduce the Providing Resources for Emergency Preparedness and Resilient Enterprises (PREPARE) Act. The legislation would reauthorize the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Pre-Disaster Mitigation Pilot Program to give small businesses the opportunity to take out low-interest loans for the purpose of proactively implementing mitigation measures to protect their property from future disaster-related damage. In addition to Senators Rubio and King leading the effort, the legislation is cosponsored by Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), John Kennedy (R-La.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

“If we didn’t already know before, the coronavirus pandemic further proves that it’s much better to prepare for a potentially catastrophic disaster rather than having to react to one after it’s happened,” said Senator King. “That’s why Senator Rubio and I are introducing this bill to help our small businesses and local governments strengthen their physical infrastructure in case of a flood – an issue particularly important to coastal small businesses in Maine given their proximity to the ocean. Now more than ever, small business owners around the nation need peace-of-mind, and this bill will support that by providing funding to prepare for natural disasters to minimize their impact rather than only paying after the fact.”

“The PREPARE Act would allow small businesses the opportunity to invest in mitigation before a disaster strikes,” said Senator Rubio. “Investing in disaster mitigation on the front end saves business’, as well as taxpayers’, dollars, while reducing potential risks to property. I am proud to introduce this bipartisan, bicameral legislation that would improve the SBA’s previous program and allow businesses to be more prepared and more resilient in the future.” 

“Small businesses are the engine of our economy, but one disaster could quickly wipe out a small business that a family spent years or even generations to build,” said Senator Collins. “This bipartisan bill would provide low-interest loans to allow small businesses to protect their property from future disasters, limiting potential damage and helping them to recover more quickly when catastrophes strike.”

“Helping the small businesses that make up Maine’s working waterfronts adapt and better prepare for future flooding or storms strengthens coastal communities and helps build resilience in a rapidly changing world. Storm surges are already flooding our island and coastal communities and recent estimates suggest that over the next 30 years, damage to coastal buildings in Maine alone will cumulatively cost over $17.5 Billion,” said Nick Battista, Senior Policy Officer at the Island Institute. “Investments in infrastructure and the small businesses our economy depends on are critical links between fishermen and others who make their living off the water and economic activity on the shore. Proactively supporting smart investments is a good investment.”

“Across the nation, natural disasters continue to grow in frequency and severity, resulting in billions of dollars’ in damages to local communities and small businesses every year,” said Adam Fortier-Brown, government relations manager at the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas. “Now is precisely the right time for Congress to invest in common-sense solutions like the PREPARE Act to make our nation’s infrastructure and economy more resilient to repeated storm damages. “This bipartisan legislation equips small businesses, like recreational boat dealerships, with an important tool to invest in modern, disaster-resilient infrastructure so they can keep their doors open and continue to fuel job growth and prosperity in their local communities. Our industry commends Senator Rubio, Senator King, Senator Cardin, Senator Kennedy, Senator Ernst, Senator Wyden, and Senator Collins for their leadership on this critical issue.”

The 2020 Atlantic Hurricane season has been so active that the National Hurricane Center has already exhausted the list of storm names. According to Federal Emergency Management Agency statistics, approximately 50 percent of small businesses close indefinitely following a disaster, and every $1 spent on mitigation saves taxpayers $6.  

The PREPARE Act, which builds upon similar legislation (H.R. 7552) introduced by U.S. Representative Joseph Morelle (D-NY): 

  • Creates an updated Pre-Disaster Mitigation Program for small business concerns to proactively take out a low-interest loan (up to $500,000) for the purpose of implementing mitigation measures to protect their property from future disaster related damage.
  • Authorizes $25 million annually (FY2021 to FY2025).
  • Tasks SBA with establishing and carrying out an advertising and outreach program related to pre-disaster mitigation.
  • Tasks SBA with issuing guidance to ensure borrowers purchase and maintain insurance coverage over the duration of the loan. 
  • Requires SBA to conduct initial reporting and a program evaluation annually thereafter. 
  • Increases, from 20 to 30 percent, the limit on existing SBA Physical Business Disaster Loans a borrower may use towards post-disaster mitigation.

Senator King is a strong supporter of small businesses, which employ hundreds of thousands of Maine people. July, he cosponsored the Restarting the Economy Sustainably Towards a Recovery in Twenty-twenty (RESTART) Act to support the small- and mid-sized businesses most affected by the coronavirus crisis, and earlier that month, Senator King wrote an op-ed to advocate for more federal support for Maine’s small businesses. He also sent a letter to Congressional leadership calling for additional funding for the Economic Development Administration (EDA)’s programs in future coronavirus economic recovery legislation.

Earlier this year, Senator King’s legislation to improve the Paycheck Protection Program was signed into law, providing Maine businesses with additional flexibility as they continue to navigate the challenges of the coronavirus. He was a lead sponsor of the Restore Our Parks Act, which was signed into law in August, which will address the maintenance backlog at national parks to ensure these significant economic drivers for small businesses remain healthy for years to come. Senator Collins is also a cosponsor of this legislation that would directly support 40,300 jobs and indirectly support 100,100 jobs over the next five years according to a recent study by the National Parks Service. Additionally, Senator King has cosponsored legislation to reauthorize Brand USA, a public-private partnership that enhances tourism across the country through marketing campaigns that promote international travel to the United States. That legislation was signed into law in December 2019.

As a member of the Small Business Task Force, Senator Collins co-authored the bipartisan Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which passed the Senate unanimously, and has been a lifeline to millions of small employers and their employees across the country.  Last month, Senators Collins and Rubio introduced legislation that would allow the hardest hit small businesses to receive a second PPP loan.  Since its launch in early April, more than 28,000 Maine small businesses and self-employed individuals have received nearly $2.3 billion in forgivable loans, which has helped to support more than 250,000 jobs throughout the state.  

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