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Washington Watch - October 21, 2009

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Quick Look: Senate Tries To Converge Health Bills

Senate Democrats are working hard this week to merge two health care reform efforts into one cohesive bill. Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), the main architect of a measure that his panel approved mid-October, will work to find common ground with proponents of the more liberal version of the legislation authored by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee this summer.

Among the differences between the measures, the HELP bill includes an employer mandate for most businesses and would create a  “public option” administered by the government. The Finance bill does not call for either of these provisions.

Some Senate Democrats have spoken publicly about their disapproval of the Baucus legislation's main revenue raiser, which is an excise tax on high-premium insurance plans. The tax would affect individuals with premiums greater than $8,000 a year and families with premiums of more than $21,000 annually.


Are Recovery Measures Working For Small Firms?

In order to answer the question on what is and is not helping firms succeed, the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship recently held a hearing to talk with federal agencies on feedback gathered from small businesses on the subject. In particular, the committee focused upon how to continue to improve access to capital and contracting opportunities for small firms.

The Committee discussed provisions enacted since the Recovery Act was signed into law, including an increase in small business lending, with weekly loan volume increasing by more than 60 percent nationwide. Small businesses have created or retained about 325,000 jobs with the help of Recovery Act provisions.

Both Committee Chair Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Ranking Member Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) agreed there is more work to be done.

"I urge the Administration to implement a meaningful women’s contracting program like Congress directed it to nearly a decade ago," said Sen. Snowe. "This would help the Federal government to meet – and exceed – its contracting requirements for women-owned small businesses. And we must also pass legislation I introduced to increase the maximum level on 7(a) and 504 loans to $5 million so that more small businesses are able to access capital."

Ranking Member Snowe introduced S. 1615, The Next Step for Main Street Credit Availability Act of 2009, this fall to help boost small business lending. The legislation would increase the maximum level on 7(a) and most 504 loans to $5 million, and microloans from $35,000 to $50,000.

The Committee also discussed a Recovery Act provision that exempted the National Institutes of Health (NIH) from participating in the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.

“This provision cheated small businesses out of as much as $230 million in work, and it directly counters the goals of the Recovery Act to create high-paying jobs, spur innovation and boost America’s competitiveness,” Sen. Landrieu said. “The SBIR and STTR programs have a proven track record in these areas.”

For more information, including complete witness testimony and video of the hearing, click here.


SBA Launches Online Training Course For Women

Women who own small businesses will be able to use a new online U.S. Small Business Administration training course to learn how to identify and take advantage of federal contracting opportunities. The new training course, Winning Federal Contracts: A Guide for Women Entrepreneurs, is part of an ongoing government-wide initiative to promote opportunities for women-owned businesses in the area of government contracting.

This free online tutorial is a practical and easy-to-use guide that walks a woman-owned small business through the contracting process. The SBA is committed to ensuring that women-owned businesses receive at least 5 percent of federal contracts and believes better training opportunities are central to meeting this government-wide goal.

“Federal contracts can provide unique opportunities for women entrepreneurs and small business owners to grow their businesses and create jobs, particularly during these tough economic times,” Administrator Karen Mills said. “It’s also a win for federal agencies, by contracting with women-owned small businesses; they are working with some of the most innovative and dynamic companies in the country.”

The SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership oversees a national network of more than 100 Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) that provide education and training to help women start and grow small businesses. In addition, the SBA has 68 district offices and other resource partners throughout the country available to train and counsel women small business owners and entrepreneurs seeking government contracts.

“This online training course makes critical information and training available to an even wider array of women entrepreneurs and small business owners,” said Ana Harvey, assistant administrator for SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership. “SBA wants to help ensure they have the tools and resources they need to compete for and win federal contracts.”

The Winning Federal Contracts course is designed to help women entrepreneurs learn about the federal procurement process and to prepare them to compete for contracting opportunities. The self-paced guide uses audio and script to provide information about contract rules, how to sell to the government and where to find contracts.

The Winning Federal Contracts course can be found here.


Small Biz Health Care Roundup

Here's a sampling of this week's top health care reform articles. If you find an article or blog that you think should be considered, drop us a line at media@nase.org.



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