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Our organizational blog featuring the most important news in WIPP advocacy for women-owned businesses; federal procurement education, programs, and opportunities; and signature events celebrating and engaging with this powerful community.

 

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Mounting Debt

Posted By Ann Sullivan, Wednesday, April 3, 2019
Recently, I heard Congressman Chip Roy from Texas state that the U.S. accumulates $100 million in debt every hour. That is a staggering, unsustainable number. It begs the question – is anyone in Congress concerned about this mounting debt, given that it is budget season? Does anyone care?

AnnSullivan According to the former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, “Despite rising debt, interest rates have remained low, and a fiscal crisis has not occurred. That is because private demand for business investment has been sluggish in a slow recovery, the Federal Reserve has provided liquidity through its unconventional monetary policy, and financial markets often ignore unsustainable fiscal conditions for an extended time.” He goes on to say: “Now, the imperative must be to develop a political strategy, and, in that context, a narrative, that persuades the broad American public that its economic well-being depends on getting our fiscal house in order.”

Given the absence of a financial crisis, elected officials have not convinced the American public that mounting debt, even to the tune of $100 million an hour, requires action. The place where fiscal policy starts is the Senate and House Budget Committees. Since the Senate Budget Committee just passed their FY2020 budget resolution, it is instructive to note the positioning of both sides. The Republican-controlled Senate Committee lauded the plan as cutting half a trillion dollars in deficits and debt over the next five years. According to the Chair, Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY), the Senate Resolution does not increase budget caps put into place in 2011 by the Budget Control Act, thus limiting spending.

In contrast, the top Senate Democrat on the Committee, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), said this: “The Senate Republican Budget is immoral and bad economic policy. In almost every instance this budget ignores the needs of ordinary Americans and what the American people want, while at the same time protecting the interests of the wealthiest and most powerful people in this country – many of whom are the largest GOP campaign contributors. This is a budget that moves this country rapidly in the direction of oligarchy. It constitutes a massive transfer of wealth from the working class to the billionaire class.”

The House Budget Committee, controlled by Democrats since January, has not yet announced its deliberation schedule on the FY2020 budget. However, there appears to be disagreement on the levels on non-defense spending among Democrats. The Chair, Representative John Yarmuth (D-KY), is pressing to lift the spending caps imposed in 2011, allowing the Congress to spend more money without requiring spending cuts to offset the decreases.

So much for a political strategy. And frankly, so much for public engagement. While some in Congress have sounded the alarm, there appears to be little appetite for making hard choices necessary to reduce the debt.

Meanwhile, while I have been writing this article, the debt just went up another $100 million. Reduction of the debt falls into the same bucket many other issues facing our country drop into—solving problems only when a crisis demands it. Short of a voter groundswell, the debt will keep piling up. You should know where your Congressional delegation stands on this important issue. Are they concerned? Have they proposed any solutions to reducing the debt? Or are they waiting for a financial crisis to force the issue?

It seems to me that asking elected officials for big solutions is a reasonable request. Answers won’t be formulated unless the voters demand it.

Tags:  Advocacy  budget  Treasury 

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Senate Committee Passes WIPP-Supported Cybersecurity Bills

Posted By Elizabeth Sullivan, Wednesday, March 27, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, April 3, 2019

The Senate Small Business Committee passed two WIPP supported bipartisan cybersecurity bills last week, the Small Business Cyber Training Act of 2019 (S. 771) and the SBA Cyber Awareness Act (S. 772). These bills are a step in the right direction to help small businesses with cybersecurity compliance as well as hold the SBA accountable to secure the sensitive data it collects. The next stop is a vote by the full Senate.

 

WIPP submitted a letter endorsing both bills to Committee Chair Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Tags:  Advocacy  cybersecurity  Senate small business 

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2019 IRS Webinars

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, March 5, 2019

The IRS has released a series of webinars to explain the new tax reform provisions that affect small businesses, including pass-through entities, the Qualified Business Income Deduction, and Opportunity Zones.

 

Tags:  IRS  resource 

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WIPP Policy News

Posted By WIPP Advocacy Team, Tuesday, March 5, 2019

 

House Small Business Committee Supports SBA Entrepreneurial Development Programs

The House Small Business Committee held a hearing with witnesses representing SBA entrepreneurial development (ED) programs. Witnesses asked Congress to increase funding for Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), Women’s Business Centers (WBCs), Veterans Business Outreach Centers (VBOCs), and SCORE. Committee Members expressed continued support for these programs.

SBA Official Reports Progress on Loan Approvals Since Shutdown

Increasing access to capital for women-owned businesses is one of WIPP’s six Policy Pillars. Bill Manger, who heads the SBA’s Office of Capital Access, told the House Small Business Committee last month that SBA has approved over 7,900 loans totaling $3.7 billion since the end of the shutdown. Manger said that SBA is actively addressing any delays in approving loans that were held up during the shutdown.

President Highlights Infrastructure

Another WIPP pillar is investing in infrastructure improvements. In remarks recently, President Trump encouraged the nation’s governors to tell their Members of Congress to get to work on an infrastructure package. The president also highlighted his workforce development initiatives - rethinking workforce development is another WIPP pillar - and the inclusion of Opportunity Zones in the 2017 tax law.

 

SBA Office of Advocacy Releases Report on State of Small Business Lending

The SBA Office of Advocacy has a new report out on the state of lending to small businesses.

Top findings include the following:

  • Large business loans (more than $1M) grew at a rate of 5.7% from 2016-2017, while small business loans ($1M or less) grew by only 0.8%
  • Large lenders are responsible for most small business loans (53.2%)
  • Small business loan demand, application approval rates, and credit quality were steady from Q4 of 2017 to Q1 of 2018

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And...We’re Off to the Races

Posted By Elizabeth Sullivan, WIPP Advocacy Team, Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Senate Small Business Committee holds first hearing of the year with Small Business Administration Administrator Linda McMahon

 

The first Committee hearing in a new Congress sets the tone for the two years ahead—priorities, attitudes and bipartisanship (or lack thereof) are on display. The Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship held their first hearing on February 13 by hearing from Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Linda McMahon.

Three areas of focus bubbled up during the hearing. Challenges facing women-owned small businesses, access to capital and issues around the workforce. 

Committee Members repeatedly mentioned challenges facing women-owned small businesses. Issues from access to capital to access to contracts were raised, signaling the Committee’s dedication to implementing policies that help WOSB’s succeed. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) raised two important questions for WOSB federal contractors. She addressed the delay in a report that was commissioned by Congress to the SBA to look government-wide at small business participation on multiple award contracts (MACs). This legislation was in direct response to WIPP’s report, Do Not Enter: Women Shut Out of U.S. Government’s Biggest Contracts (October 2016). The data is desperately needed to understand the landscape of small business contracting and create future policies that ensure fairness in the federal marketplace. 

Senator Ernst also raised the importance of ensuring small businesses are not shut out of opportunities as the government continues to buy through large contracts. The Administrator pointed to small business goals as a mechanism to hold agencies accountable. WIPP has partnered and participated in roundtables with other business organizations to determine the best path forward to safeguarding small businesses during this shift in acquisition policy. Furthermore, the Administrator shared that the SBA will be launching an innovative interactive digital platform to provide resources for women entrepreneurs, which they predict will expand their outreach capabilities from 150,000 to one million users. 

Another common thread throughout the Committee Member’s questions was access to capital. This is nothing new – women-owned firms still only get 4% of all commercial loan dollars and about 2% of venture capital funding. Additionally, only 18% of 7(a) loans in FY2017 went to women-owned firms and 27% to minority-owned firms. In response, the Administrator expressed the importance of SBA’s Capital Access programs and utilizing them to the fullest extent possible. Senator Duckworth pointed to the need for enhancement of SBA’s micro loan program as a possible solution. Furthermore, in her testimony, the Administrator highlighted that SBA was able to reduce loan processing times by half and provided $60 billion in loan guarantees. Despite this success, the Administrator committed to working to increase awareness of SBA loan offerings and resources for acquiring capital. 

Issues around workforce dominated many questions posed to the Administrator. This aligns with WIPP’s pillar-- rethinking workforce development. Questions centered around the plight of low-wage federal contractor employees and protection from future government shutdowns. Additionally, Senator Coons asked the Administrator what she saw as workforce challenges for small businesses as she traveled around the country last year. Administrator McMahon identified access to a skilled workforce and expressed SBA’s commitment to tackling this problem through its resources around the country.  

The Committee’s priorities align with several of WIPP’s six Policy Pillars. We look forward to continuing work with the Senate Small Business Committee and the SBA around these issues.

Tags:  Advocacy  Congress  hearings  SBA 

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Who Is the FAR Council and Why Are They So Slow?

Posted By Ann Sullivan, Tuesday, March 5, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, March 5, 2019

 

A letter from the Chair and Ranking Member of the House Small Business Committee recently came to my attention urging the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Council to adopt changes made by law in 2013. And I thought Congress was slow.

 

AnnSullivan

Who is this Council? According to the law, the FAR Council membership consists of: the Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy and — (A) the Secretary of Defense, (B) the Administrator of National Aeronautics and Space; and (C) the Administrator of General Services. Now, admittedly these are busy people. Maybe they just don’t have time. However, upon further investigation, these very busy people have representatives for various sections of the FAR. They are called FAR Teams.

 

For example, in 2007, the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council established a Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Small Business Team. The purpose of this Team is to focus on small business issues and to coordinate with the Small Business Administration (SBA) on concurrent SBA and FAR rulemaking. So, even with a team devoted to small business, there is still a backlog on adoption of small business changes dating back as long as six years.

 

As background, the government implemented the FAR in 1984, looking to create a single, governmentwide procurement regulation. Any amendments proposed and announced by the Department of Defense (DOD), the General Services Administration (GSA), and the National Air and Space Administration (NASA) need the concurrence of the FAR Council established at the same time. The FAR is massive and has 53 sections. Just in case you were wondering, the small business portion is contained in FAR Part 13.

 

The process of changing a law or putting in place a new one is lengthy. The FAR Council uses the same process as any other agency to amend the FAR, which includes: the publication of a proposed rule in the Federal Register; the opportunity for interested persons to submit comments on the proposed rule; publication of a final rule that includes a “concise general statement” of the “basis and purpose” of the rule; and a 30-day waiting period after the final rule is published in the Federal Register before the rule can take effect. Other agencies get involved in this process as well, such as a review from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) or the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), for example. Then, finally, it goes to the FAR Council for adoption. In my experience, a speedy regulatory process is six to nine months. Years can slip away as everyone involved in the process concludes their work.

 

A look at the FAR Council website reveals 12 pages of open cases, some of which involve the small business changes the House Committee letter is seeking. The good news is that the force of law does not necessarily have to depend on this years-long process. Sometimes the FAR “conforms” to regulations issued by the agency, such as changes to the Small Business Act. Contracting officers do not always have to wait on FAR Council actions before implementing a change in the law because agency rules generally have the force of law; however, they do not realize this. For example, this certainly happened with respect to WIPP’s push to implement sole source for the WOSB procurement program. A contracting officer told women contractors that the FAR had to be amended before they would consider issuing sole sources.

 

Agencies can also be compelled to take action in certain circumstances if they have “unreasonably delayed.” That was certainly the case with the WOSB procurement program (unless passage of a law in 2000 and implementation 11 years later does not seem unreasonably delayed).

 

So, why is the FAR Council so slow? Because the process to amend the FAR goes through an extra level of interagency review. Even though Congress passed a law and agencies produced a rule to implement the law, the FAR amendment process basically goes through the review process all over again. I don’t know about you, but it seems like this process could be streamlined. Of course, I am looking at this through private sector eyes, not the eyes of a federal agency. Given this Administration’s focus on streamlining federal processes, it seems to me that this might be a good place to start. 

Tags:  Advocacy  FAR  procurement 

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