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Statement of the Hon. Jared Golden on SBA District Office Collaboration with Resource Partners

In the rural areas that make up most of my district, the benefits of small businesses go much further than jobs and a tax base. They also provide community. I’ve seen it with my parents’ small business, where you can often find folks from all over Leeds and the surrounding towns coming together to catch up, shoot the breeze, and check in on one another. Small businesses across rural America are essential to building and maintaining these communities. and preserving the rural American way of life

But, as my folks will tell you, running a small business is not an easy task. That’s why the SBA offers free or low-cost counseling and training services that help address the unique challenges entrepreneurs face.

The SBA relies on its four primary Resource Partners to deliver these offerings. Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Development Centers, SCORE, and Veterans Business Outreach Centers help support small firms across the country, especially in rural areas, through every step of the business cycle.

SBA’s programs and services, including Resource Partners, work in close partnership with SBA’s 10 Regional Offices, and 68 District Offices throughout the U.S. SBA District Offices primarily concentrate on outreach and marketing efforts and maintain working relationships with their local Resource Partners, lenders, and economic development organizations.

These District Offices also perform regular reviews to ensure that Resource Partners are meeting the needs of their small business clients.

Strong relationships between a District Office and their local Resource Partners are vital to the success of the small businesses they serve. Clear communication and coordination facilitate the flow of critical information from the SBA to small businesses across the country. It also allows the SBA to receive feedback on challenges they face and how agency offerings can alleviate them.

I’ve seen the benefit of strong collaboration between the agency and Resource Partners firsthand in Maine.
With locations in Augusta, Bangor, and Portland, the Maine District Office delivers SBA programs and services across all of Maine’s 16 counties.

The Maine District Office also meets with the Maine SBDCs, WBCs, and SCORE Chapters quarterly to ensure everyone is rowing in the same direction and addressing common issues.

For the past two plus years, District Office staff have been there to help guide Maine entrepreneurs as they navigate the economic disruption caused by COVID-19. Their efforts have included partnering with me on tele-town halls to spread awareness about economic relief programs available to small businesses. Together, we contacted thousands of business owners in my district to make sure they knew that there were resources available to them.
And while every relationship is unique, District Offices and Resource Partners consistently have problems with staffing. Hiring caps due to budgeting constraints have left many offices short-staffed, increasing the burden on current employees and leading to higher levels of burnout.

In FY2022, SBA received approximately $278 million, about $8 million more than the FY2021 enacted level, in the salaries and expenses account. This increase was, in part, intended to better support SBA employees. This budget increase is an excellent first step, but I’d like to discuss other actions we can take to ensure that District Offices and Resource Partners have the staff they need to properly serve Main Street.

Today, I’d like to take a closer look at this and other challenges District Offices face and steps we can take to strengthen collaboration between them and their Resource Partners.

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