U.S. Senator Ben Cardin

Letters From Ben

May 6, 2023

Do No Harm

Dear Fellow Marylanders,

All this week, we have been celebrating National Small Business Week. Much has changed in the 60 years since it began in 1963, but our small businesses today are as innovative and resilient as ever.

For me, as chair of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, every week is National Small Business Week. But with the looming threat of defaulting on our debt for the first time in our nation’s history, it’s even more urgent that we actively support our small business owners as they navigate their way through economic and market challenges.

Small businesses – all 33.2 million of them nationwide – account for 99.9% of all U.S. businesses, and nearly half of all U.S. employees are employed by a small business. I am incredibly proud of Maryland’s small businesses, which continue to serve our communities with great dedication and courage.

Starting or running a small business can be a challenge in the best of times. It requires bravery and personal risk. The financial risk is very real: Almost 65% of entrepreneurs rely on personal and family savings for startup capital, and others rely on their personal credit cards.

If the House of Representatives allows the United States of America to default on its debt because they will not allow the Treasury Department to pay our bills, interest rates will skyrocket quickly – on credit cards, personal and business loans and more.

The credit market will squeeze tighter and tighter as accessible capital diminishes for many entrepreneurs. Our small businesses will have nowhere to turn, and without capital, many of the local shops we love will start to shut down. It will impact all entrepreneurs, but particularly women entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs of color and underserved small-business owners who already face significant hurdles.

One Maryland small business that has fought to overcome many of the inherent challenges of running a small business is Soft Stuff Distributors, a specialty food distributor based in Jessup. Led by their president and CEO Lois Gamerman, this company, like so many others, was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Soft Stuff Distributors saw an 85 percent loss in sales as their customers in the hospitality industry suffered when events dried up. Thankfully, they received help from the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program and the COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program – two programs I helped develop and expand during the pandemic – to keep the doors open and the lights on. Now, Soft Stuff occupies 33,000 square feet of space and employs over 50 individuals.

Lois pulled her business through the most challenging of times. I am proud to say that her determination and resourcefulness earned her the Small Business Administration (SBA) 2023 Maryland Small Business Person of the Year.  For Lois and the millions of entrepreneurs across our country, we must double down and continue to fund the programs that help fuel their success.

Unfortunately, the Default on America Act, unveiled by Speaker Kevin McCarthy last week, would do more harm than good. It would cause the small businesses we love to suffer. America needs to invest in our small businesses. Not abandon them.

As President Joe Biden said this week at the White House event to kickoff National Small Business Week, “The most important thing we have to do … is to make sure the threat by the Speaker of the House to default on the national debt is off the table.

If the House Republican plan passes, we would see accessible capital for many entrepreneurs shrink down or disappear.

Here is some of what is at stake: In 2022, the SBA Entrepreneurial Development programs served 1.2 million small businesses. The Republican plan proposes cutting spending to Fiscal Year 2022 levels. If spending for these critical programs are cut, SBA would serve 125,000 fewer small businesses than in previous years. About 125,000 American small businesses would be denied the resources and assistance that is critical to their survival.

It is my duty as chair of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee to sound the alarm on behalf of the entrepreneurial community. Default should be out of the question. We are talking about paying for spending previously approved by Congress – not new spending.

The United States keeps its promises and pays its bills. That’s what we do. We have never defaulted on our obligations before, and we should not start now.

National Small Business Week is our chance to show small businesses how valuable they are, and to take actions that show our continued support.

To every Maryland small business owner and entrepreneur working hard for their community and building their business, thank you. Thank you for all you do this week and every week. America needs our small businesses, and their ongoing success. We cannot cut them off from affordable capital. Congress must raise the debt ceiling to prevent a default; the stakes are too high.

Please feel free to reply to this email with your thoughts on this topic or any other.


Ben Cardin