America’s 28 million small businesses are the heart of our nation’s economic engine. They make up more than 99 percent of America’s firms and employ more than half our workforce. To help small businesses I support improving access to capital, expanding opportunities for entrepreneurs, improving support structures for entrepreneurs and to broadening access to global markets through exporting. I will continue to work to ensure Maryland’s small businesses have access to credit and other tools essential for their success. As the senior Democrat on the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, I will continue to develop policies and programs that will stimulate investment in small businesses, empower them to succeed, and help them create jobs for Marylanders and the American people. I will also prioritize strengthening the minority small business community, women-owned and veteran-owned businesses. Diverse small-business ownership is key to our economy’s future.
Prior to passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the number one issue small businesses around Maryland asked me about was the rising cost of health care. Through the small business exchanges, many small businesses who previously could not afford health coverage for their employees have found affordable benefits. I will take all steps possible to stop and slow the reckless attempts to repeal the ACA without a replacement that would cost our small business owners and their employees.
I support entrepreneurial development programs like the National Center for Veteran Institute for Procurement (VIP) in Montgomery county, MD which which teaches service-disabled veteran-owned small business owners how to compete for federal contracting opportunities. The VIP program is supported through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and has received SBA grant funding for its training programs and curriculum development. In less than three years the VIP program has trained more than 700 veteran-owned small businesses how to compete for federal contracts.
In 2015 the Senate Small Business Committee held a field hearing in Maryland to examine issues impacting the ability of minority entrepreneurs to access capital. I learned that small, minority-owned businesses and minority entrepreneurs face multiple challenges pursuing federal government contracts, accessing credit and starting businesses; these challenges include a lack of performance history, insufficient credit history, lower levels of access to startup funding, lack of knowledge of the federal contracting process, difficulty gaining access to contracting officials, decreased contracting opportunities resulting from contract bundling and linguistic and cultural barriers. I support promoting the use of alternative or non-traditional data such as rent and utility payments to establish credit histories and requiring SBA lenders to report on the number and type of applicants for SBA-backed loans and the number and type of loan recipients.
SBA’s HUBZone program encourages economic development in historically underutilized business zones by providing certified companies competitive and sole source contracting opportunities and preferences. SBA regulates and implements the program, determines which businesses are eligible to receive HUBZone contracts and maintains a listing of qualified HUBZone small businesses that federal agencies can use to locate vendors. I support amending the HUBZone program to ensure the faster processing of applications, the expansion of HUBZones into contiguous business districts and allowing companies to who lost their designation to grand-father in to the program
The SBA defines a small business in the federal market by industry through number of employees and/or business revenue. I hear often from small businesses in Maryland who are frustrated because they quickly grow out of the small business programs but are not able to compete with the behemoths for prime contracts. I support creating contracting categories that would carve out contracting opportunities for recently-graduated and medium-sized businesses.
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