WASHINGTON – The United States Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday passed the Financial Services Appropriations Bill, which includes $697 million in funding for the Small Business Administration (SBA) and its core finance and counseling programs for small businesses. It is a more than $150 million increase from last year. Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Chair Mary Landrieu, D-La., who is also a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Financial Services Subcommittee, and Ranking Member Olympia J. Snowe, R-Maine, worked with the Appropriations Committee to raise these funding levels.
“The SBA is the only agency dedicated to helping our entrepreneurs, and in this tough economy small businesses need the SBA’s programs more than ever,” Sen. Landrieu said. “Yet, the agency’s funding has been cut more than any other agency in the last eight years. We can’t reverse this trend overnight, but this bill goes a long way in rebuilding core programs. The funding will allow the agency to back additional loans to entrepreneurs, provide technical assistance to struggling businesses and help ensure that small businesses have the resources needed to create jobs and help America get back on its feet.”
“During these challenging economic times, it is critical that the SBA receives the resources necessary to adequately support America’s entrepreneurs, who will lead our economy's recovery,” said Ranking Member Snowe. “We are extremely grateful the Appropriations Committee provided a $22 million increase for the SBA over the President’s request, and I look forward to working with the Committee to bolster this amount to ensure that programs like SBDCs, Women’s Business Centers, SCORE, veteran entrepreneurs, HUBZones and Procurement Center Representatives receive appropriate support to effectively assist our nation's innovative small businesses.”
In addition to the $697 million, the bill also includes $104 million for the SBA Disaster Loan Program to leverage more than $1 billion in loans. Sens. Landrieu and Snowe championed disaster reforms as part of the 2008 Farm Bill, including one of Sen. Landrieu’s pilot programs for which this budget includes funding – the Expedited Disaster Assistance Program. Sen. Landrieu advocated for this program following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. This bridge loan program provides short-term financing of up to $150,000 to businesses to help them make repairs, pay their employees and purchase inventory after being hit by catastrophic disasters. Additionally, the program expedites loan processing to speed up recovery efforts. This pilot program, along with another disaster pilot program, received $1.69 million in funding in this bill.
The bill also directs the SBA to fill vacant positions in local SBA district offices and the Department of Commerce’s export assistance centers – specifically positions in offices that survived severe staff cuts over the last eight years and are now seeing a rise in need because of the recession. Out of the 109 Commerce export assistance centers nationwide, there are currently 17 International Finance Specialists – down from 22 in 2003. Although short staffed, these centers facilitated more than $10 billion in exports in the last 10 years, helping to create 140,000 new and higher-paying jobs.
The bill also provides:
- $80 million for the 7(a) loan program – the SBA’s largest loan program – to back $17.5 billion in loans and keep fees low; and
- $3 million to back $25 million in microloans, which allows intermediaries to provide small loans to entrepreneurs and start-ups, helping to create or retain close to 10,000 jobs last year (a $500,000, or 20 percent, increase from last year).
Contracting and Counseling Programs
- $2 million in funding for the Federal and State Technology Partnership (FAST) program. This program provides matching funds for states to increase the awareness and success in applying for and winning Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) awards. This would help spur small business technological innovation for firms working with the Louisiana Business & Technology Center at Louisiana State University (LSU) and the Technology Business Development Center at Louisiana Tech University, as well as the Maine Technology Institute (MTI) (First time to receive funding since FY2004);
- $114.4 million for Small Business Development Centers (SBDC), necessary to address an increased demand for counseling services (a $4.4 million, or 4 percent, increase from last year);
- $5.5 million for the PRIME program, which provides training and business assistance to low-income entrepreneurs with very small businesses (a $500,000, or 10 percent, increase from last year);
- $7 million for the SCORE program, which provides one-on-one counseling to small business owners through the use of experienced volunteers (a $2 million, or 40 percent, increase from last year);
- $3.4 million for the 7(j) technical assistance program, which provides small disadvantaged businesses with training in financing, business development, management, accounting and marketing (a $1.02 million, or 43 percent, increase from last year);
- $14.3 million for Women’s Business Centers. Women-owned firms employ 7.3 million workers and create $1.1 trillion in revenue (a $550,000, or 4 percent, increase from last year);
- $2.5 million for Veterans programs (a $1.3 million, or 108 percent, increase from last year);
- $1.5 million for the Native American Outreach program (a $467,000, or 45 percent, increase from last year); and
- $3 million for the Historically Underutilized Business Zones program (HUBZones), which creates incentives for contracting with small firms to create jobs in underserved communities (an $850,000, or 40 percent, increase from last year).