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SBA administrator: ‘We recognize the need for continued support for small businesses’

Crain’s Detroit Business
Aug. 19, 2021
Jay Davis

  • COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loans still available
  • Community navigator program available to help facilitate recovery
  • Small businesses to benefit from Build Back Better agenda, Guzman said

With many small businesses continuing to struggle during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the head of the U.S. Small Business Association stressed support that is available.

“What I hear from people is hope for the future based on the fact that we’ve battled COVID-19,” SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman told Crain’s Detroit Business in an interview Tuesday. “There are now more than 70 percent of (U.S.) adults who have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine. There’s still uncertainty, though, because of the delta variant.”

Some 4 million jobs have been added since President Joe Biden took office in January, said Guzman, who took her post as the 27th SBA administrator in March.

“Small businesses, though, are still facing declining revenues and increased costs,” she said. “The PPP funds and Economic Injury Disaster Loans gave small businesses hope and the funds they needed to survive. There are still funds available. The COVID EIDL program is available to low-income businesses. We recognize the need for continued support for small businesses.”

Some aid programs, such as the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, have closed. In just two months, $28.6 billion was awarded to a shade more than 101,000 businesses — though more than 370,000 applications were submitted. Priority was given to businesses owned by women, veterans and those in socially disadvantaged areas. Applications were processed on a first-come, first-served basis.

The Paycheck Protection Program, which offered businesses forgivable loans, ended Aug. 8 with more than $525 billion allocated. The employee retention tax credit, worth up to $28,000 per employee kept on the payroll in 2021, is slated to expire at the end of the year.

Still open through Dec. 31 is the $30 billion COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, which allows small businesses to apply for up to $500,000 in aid. The SBA has allocated $5 billion for Supplemental Targeted Advance payments for the smallest and hardest-hit businesses.

Guzman stressed Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, saying investment in infrastructure will benefit all businesses. Small businesses will be a point of emphasis, she said, as the SBA wants to ensure they can leverage contracts to help them advance.

Guzman, who previously served as director of the California office of the Small Business Advocate, said she recognizes more needs to be done to help small businesses.

“I know the connection to resources is key,” she said. “President Biden is committed to make sure we do the necessary outreach. We’re proud that 96 percent of PPP loans in 2021 have gone to small businesses of under 20 employees. More needs to be done, though. We don’t want that lack of trust. We want everyone to know when funds are available and how they can apply and receive the funding they need.”

The SBA last month announced the establishment of a community navigator pilot program, which launches in September. The program aims to help small businesses better connect to support services for access to capital, markets and technical assistance, with a focus on those owned by veterans, women, and socially and economically disadvantaged people. Recovery services can include financial assistance, access to capital supports, contracting and procurement assistance, marketing, operations, and business development, export and importing, and industry-specific training, among other areas of technical assistance to aid businesses in stabilization and expansion.

“There’s a focus on supporting underserved businesses: helping them navigate federal funds and grants,” Guzman said. “We know we need to build bridges to businesses so they feel comfortable applying for funds, and they they believe they have a fair shot.”

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