Taking Care of Small Business: Working Together for a Better SBA

Apr 5, 2017
Honorable Nydia M. Velázquez, Ranking Member
Committee on Small Business
“Taking Care of Small Business: Working Together for a Better SBA”
April 5, 2017
While there are many political and ideological differences represented on this Committee, one thing we all agree on is the centrality of small businesses to our nation’s economy.  America’s small employers merit our attention because, in a time of partisanship, they remain our common ground. 
They are the voices this Committee strives to make heard. Small businesses need the focus of both the federal government and the private sector. Today, we will center our discussion on government efforts to assist small business owners – principally, those of the Small Business Administration. 
The SBA plays a vital role because it is the only agency in the federal government tasked specifically with helping small businesses grow and succeed. 
For small businesses to fully reap the benefit from SBA’s programs, it is important that the agency operates efficiently and effectively – utilizing taxpayer dollars wisely.  As such, one role of this committee is conducting vigorous oversight, so we know the agency is serving small businesses well.  
In that regard, it is the duty of our Committee to raise our concerns with any proposal eliminating or consolidating valuable SBA programs. While cutting redundant programs is a worthwhile goal, SBA programs serve an important purpose in reaching business owners who often cannot access assistance elsewhere. 
In many cases, businesses struggle to secure financing -- and SBA initiatives help fill these gaps. Last Fiscal Year, the agency supported over $24 billion in lending through its 7(a) program alone. Another $4 billion in lending was made available for capital intensive projects through the agency’s 504 initiative.  
The SBA also plays a vital role in helping small businesses and disadvantaged firms secure their fair share of federal contracts. When small firms win government contracts, our entire nation benefits. Taxpayers receive quality goods and services at fair prices. At the same time, unlike their larger competitors, when small businesses secure federal work, they often must scale-up quickly – and that creates jobs.  
We’ve seen some progress in federal agencies meeting their small business contracting goals, but more work remains. I’ll be interested to hear the Administrator’s views on how to help more small firms break into the federal marketplace.
Beyond lending and contracting, entrepreneurs need the technical “know-how” and guidance to help them with everything from writing a business plan to learning to export.  The agency’s Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers, and Veterans’ Business Outreach Centers are spread throughout the country and help meet this need.
But improvements can always be made. SBA must do more to support minority- and women-owned businesses as they account for much of the nation’s small business growth. Women and minority business owners face high interest rates, a lack of capital, unmet contract goaling, and a lack of mentorships. These business owners are invaluable to our economy -- and continued disparities need to be addressed.
Nevertheless, the SBA remains an important institution for America’s small businesses. It is paramount that the agency’s scarce resources be invested wisely – and that the agency has the funds and people it needs to carry out its mission. 
In that regard, I found disconcerting this Administration’s proposal to reduce SBA’s budget by 5%. Likewise, I have concerns about how the current hiring freeze and plans to reduce SBA’s workforce might restrict agency functions. 
All of us – in Congress and the Administration – agree that small businesses are a cornerstone of our economy and deserve our support. However, that requires more than “lip service” – it involves a real commitment to invest in programs that work.  
On that note, I look forward to hearing the administrator’s views regarding the agency’s priorities for the long term.  With that, I thank the Chairman for holding this hearing. I again thank the administrator for testifying and I yield back.