With deep roots in their communities, small businesses and their employees are the engine driving the American economy—creating 2 of 3 new jobs and employing nearly half the country’s private workforce. Democrats on the Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship are working to level the playing field for small businesses and set conditions that help make starting and growing a small business not only easier, but possible.
Access to Capital
According to the National Small Business Association, 41 percent of small businesses say a lack of capital is hurting their ability to grow. For America’s Main Street businesses, having access to capital means the difference between hiring or layoffs. The committee is working to ensure that the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) key lending programs are working to provide small businesses with a range of financing options to start or grow their business.
The internet has been a tremendous boon to American small businesses. Online tools enable small businesses to reach new customers and break down traditional barriers to selling products. Unfortunately, even in 2017, large portions of the United States do not have access to reliable, high-speed broadband. To remain competitive and bring the global market within their reach, high-speed internet—particularly in rural communities—is a vital tool for small businesses.
The U.S. government is the world’s largest buyer of goods and services. While the federal government spends billions of dollars buying from small businesses each year, not enough of those contracts are reaching small businesses, especially in rural areas that would disproportionately benefit from the chance to compete. The committee is working with SBA to expand contracting opportunities for small businesses in communities facing a persistent lack of economic investment and chronic underemployment as well as minority, women and veteran-owned small businesses.
Disaster Assistance Programs
Americans recovering from a natural disaster cannot wait for bank loans or traditional sources of financing before rebuilding their businesses. Neither can American consumers who depend on their goods and services to get their lives back on track. SBA’s Disaster Assistance program provides low-interest loans to small businesses, homeowners and renters to support long-term recovery after a disaster strikes.
Providing quality healthcare for employees continues to be a major challenge facing small businesses, especially as they try to attract and develop a workforce. While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has had a positive impact across America and encouraged entrepreneurship, it needs commonsense repairs and strengthening. In 2014, one in five individuals who purchased healthcare on an ACA marketplace was a small business owner, self-employed, or both. The number of uninsured small business employees (those working at firms with fewer than 50 workers) dropped by more than four million between 2013 and 2015. The ACA also enabled many Americans to consider entrepreneurship by ending 'job lock,' which kept them in jobs they didn’t want because they feared losing their health insurance.
Innovation, Research & Development
Small businesses are key to driving the innovation that will lead to job creation and economic growth. In fact, they produce 16 times more patents per employee than large businesses and universities and employ nearly 40 percent of America's scientists and engineers. To achieve key government research and development objectives, federal agencies partner with innovative small businesses through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. Across the federal government, SBIR and STTR award more than $2 billion to small businesses each year. SBIR was reauthorized for five years in 2016.
The number of businesses in minority communities continues to grow, adding to America’s competitive advantage and unleashing economic potential. Over the last 10 years, minority business enterprises accounted for more than 50 percent of the two million new businesses started in the United States and created 4.7 million jobs. There are now more than four million minority-owned companies in the United States, with annual sales totaling almost $700 billion.
As brave American men and women serve around the world, the committee recognizes the economic hardships that small businesses endure when their owners and key employees are deployed. Congress approved the committee’s Veterans Entrepreneurship Act to lower the cost of SBA loans for veterans by waiving fees. The committee also oversees SBA’s veteran programs including the nationwide system of Veterans Business Outreach Centers (VBOCs) that help transitioning service members, veterans and military spouses looking to start, purchase or grow a business.
Women-led small businesses help boost economic growth and create jobs. There are more than 11.3 million women-owned businesses in America—representing 38 percent of all firms and growing at five times the national average. This dramatic growth is encouraging but happening in spite of institutional barriers facing women entrepreneurs, including a tax code that bypasses industries in which women-owned firms have flourished and a funding gap estimated at $300 billion for female-owned small businesses worldwide.
The tax code is in desperate need of reform. It is too long, too complex, and it creates a burden for small businesses across America. According to the National Taxpayer Advocate Service, small businesses spend 2.5 billion hours complying with IRS rules each year. For entrepreneurs, time is one of their most valuable resources. Every hour spent filling out forms or navigating confusing tax rules is an hour they don’t spend marketing their products or thinking about how to grow their business. The committee supports relieving some of these tax burdens on small businesses so they can focus on what they do best: creating jobs and growing the economy.
Exporting and e-commerce represent a tremendous opportunity for America’s small businesses to sell to the 95 percent of the world’s customers who live abroad. Unfortunately, only one percent of small- and medium-sized businesses currently export. To unlock that potential, the State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) helps small businesses prepare for new markets, access export financing and attend trade missions. Nationwide, the program has supported more than $1.1 billion in U.S. small business exports, yielding a return-on-investment of 19 to 1 for taxpayers. The STEP program was made permanent in the Trade Facilitation and Enforcement Act of 2015. The committee also supports leveling the playing field for small businesses by making sure they are considered as part of future trade agreements.