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SNOWE-BENNETT BILL HELPS SMALL BUSINESSES OBTAIN HEALTH INSURANCEMeasure Provides Grants To Small Business Development Centers Nationwide

Washington, D.C. - Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME), Chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and Senator Robert F. Bennett (R-UT), today introduced the Small Business Health Education and Awareness Act of 2006, legislation that provides matching grants between $150,000 and $300,000 to Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) nationwide in order to increase awareness regarding health insurance options for small businesses.

"The explosive growth in health insurance premiums continues to suffocate small businesses throughout America,” said Senator Snowe. “We’ve now experienced double-digit percentage increases in health insurance premiums in four of the past five years. Limited competition and few choices today prevent millions of small businesses from purchasing quality, affordable health insurance. It is time for Congress to act.”

“This legislation is an important step towards assisting small businesses as they strive to remain competitive with larger businesses that already have the freedom to offer affordable health insurance to their employees,” stated Senator Snowe.

Senator Snowe noted that study after study has found that the smallest businesses are least likely to offer insurance and most in need of assistance. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 60.6 percent of the nearly 38 million working uninsured either work for a small business with fewer than 100 employees or are self-employed.

Senator Snowe’s bill establishes a pilot, competitive matching-grant program for SBDCs to increase small business awareness regarding health insurance options available in their areas. Recent research conducted by the Healthcare Leadership Council has found that a short educational briefing can increase the likelihood that small businesses will offer health insurance, by approximately 33 percent. The grants under Senator Snowe’s bill would be for SBDCs to develop short presentations to help encourage small businesses to offer health insurance to their employees

The legislation requires the Small Business Administration (SBA) to make up to 20 matching grants to SBDCs across the country. No more than two SBDCs (one per state) would be chosen from each of the SBA’s 10 regions. The grants must be more than $150,000, but less than $300,000 and be consistent with the matching requirement under current law. In creating the materials for their grant programs, participating SBDCs will evaluate and incorporate relevant resources detailing existing health insurance options. In addition, SBDCs participating in the pilot program would be required to submit a quarterly report to the SBA.

SBDCs are valuable business assistance partners provide entrepreneurs with resources so they can start and grow a small business. Currently, there are over 1,100 service locations in every state and territory delivering management and technical counseling to prospective and existing small business owners.


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