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Statement of the Hon. Nydia Velazquez on From Nothing to Something: The Story of the American Dream

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you all for joining us for our first hearing of the 118th Congress. I welcome all our new Small Business Committee Members, and welcome back those returning from the 117th Congress.

The story of the American dream has been the story of our nation’s independent business owners. Those who take the reins of their own destiny and bring ideas to life in the marketplace. From the corner store to the tech startup, these risk-takers embody the ingenuity and determination to achieve the highest of American ideals.
Not only do they serve as essential economic anchors, providing the foundations of our communities, they serve as the bedrock of our sprawling democracy. They help distribute wealth and power, promote competition, and provide opportunities for individuals to achieve financial independence.

Over the past three years, the COVID-19 pandemic defined the small business economy and presented numerous hurdles for our nation’s entrepreneurs. But Congress recognized these firms as a top priority and knew that there would be no recovery without a robust small business economy.
In the early days of the pandemic, we created the Paycheck Protection Program and the COVID-EIDL Program – providing small firms with the support needed to maintain operations and protect jobs.

A year later, we passed the American Rescue Plan which expanded upon these programs and created new ones, like the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. These policies helped ensure that Main Street would lead the way in our economic recovery.

Now, nearly three years after the pandemic struck, we are seeing the fruits of this historic investment.
GDP has returned to its pre-pandemic trend, up 6.7 percent over the past two years. Unemployment is now the lowest it’s been since 1969, with over 12 million jobs created under the Biden-Harris Administration and over 500,000 created this January alone.

Small businesses have been driving the robust labor market seen over this past year. According to the Wall Street Journal, while large businesses lost nearly 800,000 net jobs since April 2020, small businesses created a net 3.5 million.

Most importantly, more and more Americans are turning to entrepreneurship. After forty years of decline, small business applications shot up, with over 10 million submitted over the past two years.

This trend is encouraging, and it signals the determination and resilience of the American people in the face of crisis.

This goes to show, when you prioritize building the economy from the bottom up and the middle out, American entrepreneurs respond with results.
However, the road to recovery has had its share of bumps, to say the least. It’s no secret that despite encouraging trends in recent months, the cost of running a business remains high.

The pandemic, alongside geo-political conflicts, induced enormous global economic challenges, that have affected businesses large and small. Supply chain disruptions and ongoing labor shortages have created headaches for business owners across the country.

Additionally, surging energy prices due to the conflict in Ukraine and the price gouging by some of our nation’s most profitable businesses helped push inflation to a 40-year high. Early retirements during the pandemic and lack of immigration over the past four years has also decreased the pool of skilled workers from which small businesses can hire.

Democrats tackled these problems head-on by lowering energy costs through the Inflation Reduction Act and bolstering supply chains with legislation like the CHIPs and Science Act.

Additionally, the bipartisan infrastructure law made massive strides toward making government contracting by small, minority-owned firms more attainable.

We’ve made great progress over the past two years, but our job is far from over. I look forward to working with our members on both sides of the aisle to address the challenges small firms face and ensure they remain the top priority for our economy.
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