The U.S. Senate gave entrepreneurs hope that the future of 14 programs, either cut back or terminated by the Bush administration’s 2006 budget for the Small Business Administration, may not be as bleak. In March, the Senate passed an amendment introduced by Senators Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) and John Kerry (D-Mass.), chair and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, respectively.
Passed by unanimous consent, the amendment provides an additional $78 million for the SBA’s microloan program, Small Business Development Centers, procurement center representatives, the HUBZone program, and others. Now Congress will go to conference to work out the differences between each bill.
This critical next step in the budget process will determine whether the amendment lives or dies. “It’s always a tough debate, especially when you look at broad- brush items such as national security, the war in Iraq, and other areas,” explains Giovanni Coratolo, director of small business policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Within that context, you have to ask, are you cutting muscle or are you cutting fat? I applaud the SBA to a certain extent for doing an admirable job with reduced resources, but I think we have to be reasonable when it comes to reducing those resources even further.”
In a statement prepared exclusively for BLACK ENTERPRISE, Kerry said, “If you believe in an opportunity society, we should be making loans more available, not less. That’s why our amendment helps reverse the president’s repeated cuts on small business assistance. It shows that Congress will come together in a bipartisan way to reject the administration’s shortsighted budget priorities and stand up for America’s small business owners.”
Marvin Masterson, executive director of the Association for Small Businesses in Technology, adds, “The president, throughout last year, articulated the importance of small business to our nation and our economy. If that is the case, then how can the SBA’s budget be sliced and diced in a way that can adversely affect, or impact, the small minority business community?” Masterson extols the amendment’s recommendation of an additional $10 million to the number of procurement center representatives, which he says will help small business owners deal with the adverse impact of contract bundling.
Spokespeople for both Kerry and Snowe are optimistic that when the 2006 budget hits both floors for a final vote, the amendment will survive. Others aren’t quite so sure. Rep. Nydia M. Velazquez (D-N.Y.), ranking member of the House Small Business Committee, is among them. “I anticipate, as in years past, that the final product will mirror President Bush’s original budget proposal, which spells trouble for small business owners across the country,” she says.