Plan bolsters SBA’s ability to address excessive or unfair regulatory actions, audits and penalties on small businesses

(Washington, DC) – Responding to concerns from small business owners disproportionately burdened by federal regulations, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), the lead Democrat on the Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship, today introduced legislation to bolster the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) capacity to assist small businesses facing excessive or unfair regulatory actions.

SBA’s Office of the National Ombudsman was created in 1996 to help small businesses overcome unfair regulatory enforcement actions by federal agencies, including repetitive audits, investigations or excessive fines.  The small but effective office works directly with federal agencies across the government to review complaints made by small businesses, reduce or waive penalties, and reverse unfair agency decisions. 

“Complying with local, state and federal regulations is one of the top concerns I hear from small businesses in New Hampshire,” said Shaheen.  “Poorly crafted or unclear federal regulations are a real burden for small businesses, hurting their ability to grow, innovate and create jobs.  Unlike large businesses, small firms do not have the time, money or personnel to devote to complying with complex or confusing federal rules.  This legislation increases SBA’s capacity to level the compliance playing field with some much needed assistance for small businesses.”

In 2015, the Ombudsman assisted more than 400 small businesses and responded to thousands of written and phone inquiries. 

Shaheen’s Small Business Regulatory Relief Act enhances the Ombudsman’s office to serve more small businesses and better represent the interests of small businesses before federal agencies. 

The bill empowers SBA’s Office of the National Ombudsman to:

  • Enhance outreach to small businesses.  Most small businesses are unaware of the Ombudsman’s services.  The legislation directs the Ombudsman to develop outreach initiatives to promote awareness and increase the office’s visibility.
  • Develop best practice guidelines for agencies to address small business regulatory concerns.  Although federal agencies are required to provide compliance assistance programs for small businesses, the quality of these programs vary significantly.  The legislation directs the Ombudsman to collaborate with federal agencies to develop best practice guidelines for federal agencies to help small businesses comply with rules through training webinars, compliance guides, and improved customer service. 
  • Increase the visibility of the Ombudsman and enhance collaboration at federal agencies.  The legislation establishes a single point of public contact at each federal agency to work with the Ombudsman to find fair regulatory solutions for small businesses.
  • Expand the ability of the Ombudsman to help small businesses selling to the federal government.  To sell to the federal government, small businesses must navigate complex regulations established by each agency.  The legislation ensures the Ombudsman can advocate on behalf of more small businesses by clarifying the office also covers federal contracting regulations.