Last updated: February 17. 2013 1:59AM - 36 Views

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WASHINGTON – The U.S. House of Representatives passed Rep. Lou Barletta’s Disaster Loan Fairness Act of 2012 by voice vote Wednesday evening.


House Bill 6296 would lower the interest rates of disaster loans issued by the U.S. Small Business Administration to victims of presidentially declared disasters, including those in Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania who were affected by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in August and September 2011.


The rates would be half of the prevailing rate for victims who cannot receive credit elsewhere and three-quarters of the prevailing rate for those who can receive credit elsewhere; interest rates would be capped at a maximum of 4 percent.


The bill is retroactive, so those who received SBA recovery loans after a presidential disaster declaration since Jan. 1, 2011, will have the interest rates of their loans lowered, and they will receive a rebate from the federal government.


Barletta, R-Hazleton, said he’s been fighting for more than a year to lower the interest rates for disaster victims.


“The Disaster Loan Fairness Act will provide real relief for my constituents – both homeowners and business owners who received these SBA loans. It will help them rebuild their homes and restart their companies,” Barletta said in a prepared statement.


Since Jan. 1, 2011, communities in more than 200 Congressional districts in 46 states have been flooded by a tropical storm or a hurricane, burned by a wildfire, crippled by a snowstorm, or destroyed by a tornado, resulting in a disaster declaration by the president.


So in addition to helping victims in his district, the bill would help “hundreds of thousands of Americans who have endured horrible loss during natural disasters ... (and) to the millions of Americans who will suffer loss in future natural disasters,” Barletta said.


“And because the lower rate and the refunds will be paid for by eliminating federal funding for political party conventions, we literally put the American people ahead of politics,” he said.


The Disaster Loan Fairness Act of 2012 passed with bipartisan support. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.


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