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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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