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Is the Small Business Administration Going to Help Small Businesses Get Out from Under Obamacare?

Sen. Risch: “The thing I get from businesses all the time is, ‘you’ve got to help me on this Obamacare.'"

by
Bill Straub

Bio

April 18, 2013 - 12:19 am
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“They’re trying to get away from it,” Risch said. “They’re trying to get around it. They’re not embracing this. You don’t see anyone coming up hugging this stack of documents saying, ‘look this is what I want to do.’ They want to get away from this.”

Undeterred, Mills said her office provides “clear and detailed explanations” on the potential impact of the law.

“One of the things we’ve seen is many small businesses don’t know that they are eligible for a healthcare tax credit and one of our jobs is to walk them through their eligibility and see if they are,” she said.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) also defended what is popularly known as ObamaCare, a plan that requires all Americans to obtain health insurance, some through federal subsidies.

Cardin said the controversial initiative “has provided an opportunity for small businesses today who have been shut out of a competitive market to get into a competitive market to provide health benefits to their employees and to do it in an affordable way with (tax) credits and more accurate premiums.”

Risch, the committee’s ranking Republican, having succeeded the departed former Sen. Olympia Snowe, of Maine, in January, displayed little patience for reviewing the administration’s SBA budget request that “we all know will never become law.”

“And if we’re going to do things like this it really ought to be pragmatic and be dealing with something that really is going to become law,” he said.

Nonetheless, Mills told the panel that the proposed 2014 budget of  $810 million “is focused on job creation and accelerating our economic growth,” while simultaneously coming in $109 million below this year’s level.

The savings is attributed to a cut in the subsidy for the popular 7 (a) business loan program, which the administration believes is viable as a result of declining default rates. In addition, the SBA has proposed waiving the fees for lenders and borrowers on loans of less than $150,000, which she said will provide small businesses with greater access to capital.

Mills also said the SBA seeks to reinstitute the 504 loan program, which is directed toward commercial real estate development. It expired on Sept. 30.

Lawmakers generally reacted positively to the package although Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), the committee chairman, expressed disappointment over the administration’s failure to fund the STEP program aimed at assisting small businesses enter the international marketplace. Currently, only one percent of small business is involved globally but there exists “potential for the other 99 percent because of the Internet and technology.”

The feedback on the STEP program, she said, was “very enthusiastic.”

That expertise as to how to navigate challenging rules and regulations is important, she said.

Landrieu also expressed concern over proposals to cut small business development centers and women’s business development centers. Mills said those programs will be bolstered by a new initiative.

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Washington freelancer Bill Straub is former White House correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service.

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