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Six Ways Congress Can Work Together in 2021 to Support Small Businesses

As the U.S. waits for widespread distribution of COVID-19 vaccines now being administered in sporadic ways across the globe, America’s small business community continues to be ravaged by the economic impact of this pandemic. Nearly all economic indicators point towards a long, slow recovery through 2021 as millions of small businesses hang in the balance.

This year must be one where America helps our small business community survive and rebuild along our nation’s Main Street. It is imperative our elected leaders on both sides of the aisle partner with us if our country’s entrepreneurial spirit is going to survive.

The small business community is the hallmark of the American economy — from small neighborhoods to booming communities, it’s the mom-and-pop shops providing the economic fuel for our local and national economies. The Small Business Administration estimates there are over 30 million small businesses across the United States representing 99.9 percent of all U.S. businesses. In a normal operating year, we generate 1.5 million jobs annually — 64 percent of all new jobs according to Fundera in 2019.

But the news was grim last year: the largest national poll of diverse business owners conducted during this ongoing pandemic indicated minority-owned small businesses were struggling the most. While 10 percent expect to close permanently in the next six months, 45 percent expect to lay off at least one employee. 33 percent of Black-owned, 26 percent of Native American-owned and 21 percent of Hispanic-owned businesses report having less than a month of cash to cover expenses.

Furthermore, a survey by the Small Business Roundtable, which NASE is a founding member, found the pandemic has had a devastating impact on small businesses. As a result of our nation’s scattershot array of lockdowns, countless small businesses either shut their doors, laid off employees, had to curtail their services and/or products for their customers.

Despite the challenges, there were some positive signals: the survey also found small business owners adapted to the new normal by finding new and innovative ways to conduct business. The self-employed also welcomed members of the gig-economy workforce into our ranks. On-demand drivers now join freelancers, bakers, carpenters, and accountants as solo entrepreneurs, illustrating the growth, elasticity, and power of this growing business demographic.

As Americans turn to self-employment and small business ownership, our government and elected leaders must commit to pro-growth and pro-entrepreneurship policies. While the two COVID relief bills last year were a good start, the Biden Administration and Congress must do more for our struggling community — including these six areas they can work together to support America’s small businesses:

Payroll Protection Program (PPP): Congress should continue to utilize the PPP to support small businesses for the foreseeable future. Providing small loans (that in many cases will be forgiven) to support businesses as the vaccine is deployed in the months ahead.
PPP loan forgiveness: We applaud Congress for passing legislation to require the SBA to forgive loans of $150,000 or less. We should assess if that dollar threshold should be increased to account for 2nd PPP draws. Further, we should ensure any loan forgiveness process is streamlined and simple.
Access to capital: We can focus on opening new lines of capital making sure the process is easy to apply for and small businesses readily receive the money in a timely manner to invest in starting or growing business operations.
Tax equity and simplification: We must continue to both reduce the tax burden on small businesses and streamline the tax code to make it easier and simpler to file annual tax returns.
Health care: Congress must assess how best to facilitate purchase of health insurance for small business. This could include changes the Affordable Care Act by making access to health care more affordable for small business owners while identifying additional options to gain coverage, or to ensure continuity of coverage.
Retirement options: While many small businesses don’t have the same retirement benefits and opportunities as large corporations, we must implement creative retirement options for small businesses so that all Americans can retire with dignity regardless of job, status and employment structure.

During this perilous time, we all know this pandemic isn’t likely to anytime soon for the small business community. A walk or drive through the small business corridor of any American town or community exposes the real-world impact on the hardworking small businesses we represent. Shuttered doors, darkened front windows, take out or delivery only signs, handmade notes to customers: “closed for the winter, see you in the spring!”

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