Evaluating the Paperwork Reduction Act
WASHINGTON—Yesterday, Members of the House Small Business Committee heard from a panel of government officials on how federal agencies are reducing paperwork burdens on small businesses and agency compliance issues with the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA).
“Even though the PRA is supposed to reduce paperwork burdens, small businesses are still faced with an overwhelming amount of paperwork requirements each day,” said Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH). “In fact, paperwork requirements are costing America almost $120 billion a year. But as we heard at our hearing last March, this number is probably much higher, because federal agencies may not be accurately estimating the burden.”
Are Burdens Being Reduced?
This is the second hearing in a series examining the PRA’s goals to reduce the paperwork burden on individuals and small businesses, while also reducing the cost to the federal government of collecting and using information. The PRA makes the agency’s Chief Information Officer (CIO) responsible for compliance with the Act. The witnesses included agency representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Labor, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The witnesses provided testimony on their efforts to minimize federal paperwork burdens on small businesses under the PRA. However, Members of the Committee were skeptical of the agencies’ efforts to reduce paperwork requirements on small businesses.
“I’ve heard during your testimony you’ve uttered the following words more than once: that your agency strives to limit the information and paperwork requirements we place on the public, balancing our data and information needs—the government’s data and information needs—with the burdens associated with those needs.” said Rep. Rod Blum (R-IA). “There’s not a small business person in my district in Northeast Iowa that believes that statement. Not a one.”
“The purpose [of the PRA] is not to get information for any of your agencies. The purpose is to make these small businesses productive.” said Rep. Trent Kelly (R-MS).
“[i]t does all fall on the small business person, often two or three people, having to make a profit and work through all this red tape.” said Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE).
“I’m a small business owner.” said Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC). “I’ve had it with paperwork. I’ve had it with having to fill out every form in the world.”
Members of the Committee were also concerned that the agencies are not doing enough to reduce the burden, and that small business owners are not seeing the results of the agencies’ efforts.
“When will small businesses see a reduction in the paperwork? Because that sounded very nice. But they’re sitting there in Iowa saying this isn’t going to happen. It never has in the past.” said Rep. Blum. “Small business have zero resources available, none. Every time we ask them for a bit of information, we just taxed them.”
“[e]very dollar that I have to spend filling out this paperwork...is a dollar that I can expand our business. That’s a machine I can buy. That’s a tractor that I can put to work.” said Rep. Norman.