Small business owners calling on Congress for recovery help due to pandemic

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – Small business owners across the U.S. are urging Congress to modernize Small Business Administration programs to reflect today’s economy.

The Bipartisan Policy Center and Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Voices, in partnership with small business owners across the country, today released a new report – From Pandemic to Prosperity: Bipartisan Solutions to Support Today’s Small Businesses. The new report urges Congress to reauthorize the Small Business Administration (SBA) for the first time in over two decades, allowing programs supporting small businesses to be reimagined to reflect the realities of today’s economy.

Some business owners across Rhode Island are on board with the effort, voicing their concerns for the future of their business after the pandemic.

Brian Fitzgerald, the owner of Admiral Fitzroy Inn in Newport says he’s been struggling for two years now and worries about recovery due to staffing issues.

“I was closed twice for months on end during that period of time. Just to keep the doors option, to try and retain my key staff, and just to keep the bills paid was very, very difficult,” Fitzgerald said. “I ran at about a third staff capacity last summer. We are trying to hire for the summer season now and still don’t see a lot of applicants applying.”

The report details more than a year of conversations with small business owners, as well as national surveys of small business owners conducted by Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Voices, and discussions with current and former government officials.

Its findings underscore the urgent need for Congress to further support small businesses and reauthorize the SBA to address persistent challenges small business owners are facing, primarily: recruiting and retaining workers in a highly competitive environment, ensuring that employees have access to quality, affordable child care, accessing capital and competing for government contracts.

It’s the same story for Dr. May Ann Shallcross Smith. She’s the founder of MyChildCare centers, a local early childhood education program.

“We actually onboarded 190 new employees. In our 50 years in this business, I haven’t seen 20 onboarded in a year. That’s a big challenge for child care facilities,” Shallcross Smith said.

The full report and an executive summary of key findings can be found at www.gs.com/from-pandemic-to-prosperity.

The policy report identifies for Congress and policymakers critical challenges facing small businesses as members consider modernizing the SBA through reauthorization and supporting small businesses more broadly. Key findings include:

Small Businesses Are Unable to Compete with Larger Businesses for Talent: Three-quarters (75 percent) of respondents to a recent Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Voices survey who are having difficulty retaining employees say they can’t afford to compete on salaries, two-thirds (67 percent) say they can’t afford to compete on benefits, and 39 percent say they can’t afford to offer a retirement plan. The existing policy programs and incentives intended to address small business hiring and retention challenges often have low adoption because they are overly burdensome and complex.

Affordable, Reliable Child Care is Critical for Workers, Small Business Owners:Over half of small business owners in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Voices survey said they or their employees had faced childcare challenges during the pandemic. For small business child care providers, the pandemic also highlighted the deficiencies in the basic business model of child care. The cost of providing quality care exceeds what most parents and families can afford to pay—even with existing means of government support.

Access to Capital Inequities Will Persist Beyond the Pandemic: In the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Voices January survey, 48 percent of Black small business owners said they expect to take out a loan or line of credit for their business in 2022, compared to 33 percent of all survey respondents. And just 19 percent of Black small business owners were “very confident” in their businesses’ ability to access capital, compared to 31 percent of all respondents.  Research has shown that Black-owned businesses deemed to be “low credit risks” are still less likely than other small businesses to receive all the financing they seek, driving the ambition/confidence gap.

Simplifying Government Contracting is Essential to Small Business Participation: Every year, the federal government spends hundreds of billions of dollars buying goods and services, from software and technology to furniture and construction.The federal government’s record in meeting contracting goals for subcategories—including for disadvantaged small businesses and women-owned small businesses—has been mixed. For example, the government has only twice met its women-owned small businesses contracting goal since it was established in 1994.

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