WASHINGTON — U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship Ranking Member Ben Cardin’s (D-Md.) and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth’s (D-Ill.) Unlocking Opportunities in Emerging Markets Act today gained bipartisan support after U.S. Representatives Abby Finkenauer (D-Iowa) and Don Young (R-Alaska) introduced a house companion today. The bill would establish an Office of Emerging Markets (OEM) within the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) Office of Capital Access to ensure that SBA’s access to capital initiatives address the specific needs of entrepreneurs in underserved domestic emerging markets in a coordinated way. Cardin and Duckworth introduced the bill in July 2019.
The Unlocking Opportunities in Emerging Markets Act would create and empower the Office of Emerging Markets to:
- create and implement strategies and programs that provide an integrated approach to the development of small business concerns in an emerging market;
- develop and recommend policies concerning the microloan program and any other access to capital program of the Administration as they pertain to small business concerns in an emerging market;
- establish partnerships to advance the goal of improving the economic success of small business concerns in an emerging market; and
- review the effectiveness and impact of the microloan program and any other access to capital program of the Administration that is targeted to serve small business concerns in emerging markets.
The bipartisan House introduction comes on the heels of a hearing the committee convened yesterday on capital access for minority-owned small businesses. In response to a question from Ranking Member Cardin about the need for a coordinated strategy at SBA to address the access to capital needs of underserved small businesses, Latino Economic Development Center Executive Director Marla Bilonick said, “I think it would be very effective to have a point person. I think any sort of deliberate and thoughtful way of approaching access for minority small—Black, Hispanic, however you want to break down the pie – businesses can only be a positive.”
Maryland boasts the highest concentration of minority-owned businesses in the country and as committee Ranking Member, Cardin has made increasing federal support for MBEs a top priority.
Last week, Cardin, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) and Senate Democrats unveiled the Economic Justice Act, a major new legislative proposal to make $350 billion in immediate and long-term investments in Black communities and other communities of color. For far too long, Congress has underfunded critical priorities like public health, child care, infrastructure, and job creation in these communities. The plan would make a historic federal commitment to communities of color through ten major investments over the next five years.
In May, Cardin and Booker released a proposal to make improvements to federal small business relief programs in order to make it easier for minorities and other underserved small business owners to access the capital they need to survive COVID-19. The senators’ proposal also addresses historical, systemic disparities in access to startup and operating capital, as well as technical training and mentorship, so underserved small businesses have the resources they need to adapt their businesses to the changes caused by COVID-19.
In October 2019, Cardin introduced the Ushering Progress by Leveraging Innovation and Future Technology (UPLIFT) Act of 2019, which would foster innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystems in underserved communities by providing Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), minority serving institutions (MSIs), and community colleges with the resources to establish and expand incubators and accelerators for underserved entrepreneurs.
In July 2019, Cardin introduced three bills, including the Unlocking Opportunities in Emerging Markets Act, to increase Small Business Administration (SBA) lending to minority-owned and other underserved entrepreneurs:
- the Closing the Credit Gap Act would make permanent SBA’s 7(a) Community Advantage Pilot Program, which has a record of getting capital to minority entrepreneurs at higher rates than the traditional 7(a) program; and
- the Small-Dollar and Veterans Loans Enhancement Act would eliminate or reduce fees on SBA 7(a) small-dollar loans of $150,000 or less, which make up the majority of the loans that go to women-, minority- and veteran-owned and rural small businesses.