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Statement of the Hon. Abby Finkenauer on Kick Starting Entrepreneurship and Main Street Economic Recovery

I want to start by recognizing the Iowans in our community who have gone through hell the last few weeks. You see, cities and towns in our congressional district were hit by a derecho in the middle of August. That meant hurricane-like 140 mile per hour winds ripping through homes, businesses, and farms –– all this with almost no warning.

Hundreds of thousands were left without power for more than a week, homes and businesses were destroyed by falling trees, silos crushed like pop cans, and we have lost almost half of our corn from this year’s harvest.

I spent days meeting with families who were struggling to keep insulin fresh. Delivering generators, or even ice, to desperate and tired families.

The derecho brought devastation to our district, and we are not yet recovered.

Mr. Nath and Mr. Ketelsen are both from communities that were hit hard by this disaster. In light of everything that has happened, the fact that they are joining us today goes to show how tough and resilient Iowans are. I am very appreciative that they chose to testify today given that so many businesses are still dealing with the aftermath of this terrible storm. Unfortunately, the derecho struck our community as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to devastate. In Iowa, more than 69,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and more than 1,100 of our friends and neighbors have died from the virus.

This public health emergency has also created real hardship for small businesses. Due to the downturn in our economy, 7.5 million small businesses are now at risk of closure and many of them are in our rural areas. What’s especially frustrating is that we have spent nearly a decade recovering from the Recession only to have our rural economies take another devastating hit.

The Recession had a lasting and disproportionate impact on Rural America. Two out of every three rural counties experienced a decline in their total number of businesses and a decline in their population as families left to find better opportunities.

This is something that I saw happen firsthand in my home state of Iowa. In Iowa—much like the rest of the country— recovery took hard-work. Iowans took big risks to start their own businesses and it paid off. In 2016, nearly 1,900 new businesses started in Iowa, creating 7,000 new jobs.

This didn’t just happen in Iowa though. In 2017, America’s small businesses created 8.4 million new jobs across the country.

Not every community bounced back from the Recession though. There are still places, especially in rural areas, that have never been able to bring back the jobs and opportunities they lost.

Now, as we deal with the fallout of this pandemic, we need to make sure that no business or community is left behind.

Recently, I introduced the Unlocking Opportunities in Emerging Markets Act, which would create a new office at the Small Business Administration to focus entirely on how we can help improve access to capital for unrepresented entrepreneurs—like those in rural areas, people of color, women and our nation’s veterans.

This is just one of the many bipartisan bills that are being put forth to help our small business owners be successful in the long-term. I know that all my colleagues here today have been working hard to come up with new ideas and solutions to help get our economy back on track.

That’s we wanted to hold this hearing; to hear directly from America’s rural small business owners about what they need to move forward and what the pandemic has meant for their businesses.  I also look forward to hearing from our policy expert(s) about how rural America can be a catalyst for job creation across the country.
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