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Opening Statements

Tenney: “SBA District Office Collaboration with Resource Partners”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the House Small Business Subcommittee on Underserved, Agricultural, and Rural Business Development held a hybrid hearing on “SBA District Office Collaboration with Resource Partners.”

Subcommittee Ranking Member Claudia Tenney’s opening statement as prepared for delivery:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you to our witnesses for testifying.

As we hold this hearing, small businesses are facing historic economic headwinds including soaring costs, chronic labor shortages, and supply chain disruptions.

Last week, the Consumer Price Index hit another historic level of 9.1 percent, the highest 12-month gain since 1981. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also reported the Producer Price Index, a measure of wholesale inflation, jumped 11.3 percent from the previous year. Inflation is raging across all industries, which means higher prices for small businesses and their customers.

In addition to soaring prices, small businesses continue to experience significant labor issues and ongoing supply chain disruptions.  The most recent Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary reported 11.3 million job vacancies across the nation and 4.3 million employees quit their jobs.  The National Federation of Independent Business’ monthly jobs report shows half of small business owners reported job openings they could not fill. Further, NFIB found that approximately 94 percent of small businesses have been affected in some way by supply chain disruptions. 

As our economy approaches a recession, it is important for our committee to examine how the SBA can better support small businesses on the ground. The SBA’s Office of Field Operations (OFO) is responsible for just that - it oversees regional and district offices across the country. OFO is responsible for connecting and supporting entrepreneurs with SBA tools and services.

Small business owners turn to district offices to gain access to capital, expand consumer base, navigate government regulations, and to work with the SBA resource partners.  The SBA relies on its district offices to provide tools for enhancing and growing small businesses while overseeing the delivery of the SBA programs, including the entrepreneurial development programs.

Upstate New York is home to three district offices that serve 34 counties. These district offices were vital during the pandemic as they assisted small firms in applying and accessing the Paycheck Protect Program, Economic Injury Disaster Loans, and the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

In 2021, New York’s SBDCs helped over 42,000 small businesses secure more than $526 million in financial support. Further, they assisted almost 2,000 new firms open their doors during 2021. This work played a pivotal part in New York’s SBDC network heling save or create 16,200 jobs last year. It is resources and programs like this that have a real impact in rural communities like mine.

However, I am concerned with the SBA’s actions to allocate resources for duplicative programs, such as the Community Navigator Pilot Program and the Growth Accelerators Fund. Further, it is troubling that the SBA is using resource partners and programs to advance a political agenda.

The SBA has touted becoming the first federal agency to apply to be a designated a “voter agency”. In a press release, the SBA states it “plans to use district offices to provide access to voter registration services and vote-by-mail ballot applications.”

Now more than ever, small businesses need the SBA to carry out its statutory missions and core responsibilities. Small firms are struggling from this Administration’s poor economic policies. They should not need to play second fiddle to the SBA’s newfound side project of electioneering.

For this reason, I am a proud cosponsor of the IMPROVE the SBA Act, which will safeguard taxpayer dollars by reducing duplicative programs, ensure that resource partners are effectively serving small businesses, and support entrepreneurs in navigating economic headwinds.

I am also proud to have worked across the aisle to find bipartisan solutions to improve the SBA resource partners and programs.  In May, Rep. Houlahan and I introduced H.R. 7670, the Women-Owned Small Business Program Transparency Act, which will strengthen the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) contracting program by enhancing transparency and accountability, ensuring it works for taxpayers and our nation’s small businesses.

Further, I worked with Rep. Davids to introduce H.R. 6441, the Women’s Business Centers Improvement Act of 2022, which reauthorizes the WBC program through FY 2025 and increase the cap on individual center grants for the first time.  I am confident that we can continue to work together to strengthen these programs and better support small businesses.

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today on how we can better empower our entrepreneurs and work to ensure that SBA resources are operating efficiently and communicating with small businesses in a prompt manner.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.