(Washington, D.C.)—The U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship today passed four bipartisan bills—S. 1617, S. 2042, S. 2521, and H.R. 3451—to make the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) programs more inclusive, protect small business owners from cyber-threats, increase the availability of SBA disaster loans in rural communities, and reauthorize an interagency committee to encourage women’s business ownership. The bills were passed en bloc by voice vote.

S. 1617, the Disaster Assistance for Rural Communities Act

Introduced by Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), John Kennedy (R-La.), and Mike Braun (R-Ind.), the bill would amend SBA’s threshold for disaster declarations to allow the administrator to issue a disaster declaration for rural communities that have been included in a Presidential public assistance-only disaster declaration if the governor of the state has requested the declaration; and at least one homeowner, small business, or nonprofit had significant damage.

Committee Chair Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said: “The bill will ensure that rural communities receive the support they need following a natural disaster by directly addressing current situations in which a rural community is significantly impacted by a natural disaster, but does not reach SBA’s threshold for a disaster declaration.”

S. 2042, the Interagency Committee on Women’s Business Enterprise Act

Introduced by Chair Cardin and Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), and Susan Collins (R-Maine), the bill would reauthorize the Interagency Committee on Women Business Enterprise (ICWBE), and designate the SBA Administrator to be the chairperson of the committee, update the mission and duties of the committee, and increase the committee’s efficacy by adding participants. The bill also requires the committee’s first annual report to be completed by September 30 of this year.

Cardin said: “This bill would reauthorize the Interagency Committee on Women’s Business Enterprise, which was established in 1979 and played a vital role in Federal efforts to develop policies and programs to empower women entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, the committee has been without a chairperson since 2000, and has been inactive.”

S. 2521, the SBIC Advisory Committee Act of 2021

Introduced by Chair Cardin and Senator Risch, the bill would establish an advisory committee to develop recommendations for increasing demographic and geographic diversity in SBA’s Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) program. In 2021, SBICs made 1,063 investments in small businesses, of which only 55, or 5 percent, were owned by women, veterans, or minorities, and 224, or 20 percent, were located in low- and moderate-income communities. The advisory committee must submit a report to Congress with recommendations on how to expand SBIC access to underserved communities within 18 months.

Cardin said: “The bill will bring together experts and stakeholders from the private sector to advise the SBA on how to increase demographic and geographic diversity in the Small Business Investment Company program.”

H.R. 3451, the SBA Cyber Awareness Act

This bill will require SBA to assess its cybersecurity procedures; develop and report to Congress annually its cybersecurity strategy; and implement a notification system to alert Congress and all affected parties in the event of a cyber-breach. The bill was introduced by Reps. Jason Crow (D-Colo.) and Young Kim (R-Calif.); Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is the lead sponsor of the Senate companion.

Cardin said: “SBA handles the personally identifiable information of millions of small businesses, including email addresses, citizenship status, birth dates, phone numbers, and Social Security Numbers, which makes the agency an appealing target to cybercriminals. So it is of great concern that SBA’s Office of Inspector General has cited the agency’s cybersecurity protocols as one of its greatest challenges for more than two decades.”