Post-pandemic, small businesses need sustainable opportunity
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Small businesses, the backbone of the American economy, are struggling. Many operate habitually on razor-thin margins, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, even the most profitable are in danger of closing. Although we admire and commend the creativity and inventiveness of owners who have adapted to survive, Congress has a responsibility to help. Our bill, the Increasing Opportunities for Small Businesses Act, would leverage existing government programs to promote the long-term growth of small businesses, not just short-term survival.

When COVID-19-related shutdowns halted our economy, we both voted for the historic CARES Act, which included almost $2.3 trillion in funding to provide rapid relief to the American people. Included in the law, it created forgivable loans — grants, in effect — to help small businesses pay employees amid pandemic-driven shocks to revenue generation. Quick passage and implementation of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) kept hundreds of thousands of our constituents employed.

Now, as our economy continues to recover, every member of Congress should support releasing the $138 billion already appropriated but unspent to provide a second round of support for the smallest and most impacted businesses. But we can also do more with existing programs to unleash small business growth that lasts.

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Created in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act under Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottBiden: Republicans who say Democrats want to defund the police are lying The Hill's Morning Report - Surging COVID-19 infections loom over US, Olympics Six takeaways: What the FEC reports tell us about the midterm elections MORE’s (R-S.C.) leadership, Opportunity Zones promote business formation and job creation in underserved communities. In our respective posts on the Small Business and Financial Services Committees, we have already seen the impact of Opportunity Zones, driving $75 billion in business investment to underserved communities.

At the same time, the Small Business Administration (SBA) coordinates a vast infrastructure of district offices: Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers, the Service Corps of Retired Executives, and Veterans Business Outreach Centers that all work to connect small businesses to sources of financing. With a few tweaks, these programs can complement each other to help entrepreneurs unlock the power of Opportunity Zones and create long-term economic success for their small businesses and the communities they serve.

Recently, we teamed up to introduce the Increasing Opportunities for Small Businesses Act to make this happen. Our bill would put the weight of Congress behind President TrumpDonald TrumpNew Capitol Police chief to take over Friday Overnight Health Care: Biden officials says no change to masking guidance right now | Missouri Supreme Court rules in favor of Medicaid expansion | Mississippi's attorney general asks Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade Michael Wolff and the art of monetizing gossip MORE’s White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council initiative by directing the SBA to use existing resources to educate entrepreneurs, investors, and community leaders about Opportunity Zone financing and to facilitate connections that will fertilize growth in those investments. This directive has two parts.

The first part recognizes that Opportunity Zone incentives can be complex to navigate. Our bill requires educating SBA field representatives in the intricacies of Opportunity Zone investing and financing. Once properly trained, these field representatives will conduct Opportunity Zone outreach in their communities. They will impart appropriate information to managers of qualified opportunity funds, prospective small business entrepreneurs, local business professionals like accountants and lawyers, and local elected officials — all to get the right information into the right hands and spark new business investments.

The second part recognizes that, even with the right information to disseminate, maximizing Opportunity Zone investments requires connecting people of differing talents and capacities. Launching a new business may depend on an entrepreneur, who has identified a business opportunity, meeting an investor who can fund its development. This will allow field representatives to sponsor annual seminars in each state, not only to impart information, but also to bring together stakeholders interested in Opportunity Zone investing who might mutually benefit from forming connections.

By redirecting SBA’s outreach programs to emphasize Opportunity Zones, we can ensure that struggling communities get the resources they deserve for expanded goods, services, and employment for decades to come — regardless of who is in the White House. We urge our colleagues in Congress to pass our bill and to give small businesses another boost at a time when they need all the help that they can get.

Dan Bishop represents North Carolina’s 9th District and is a member of the Small Business Committee. William TimmonsWilliam Evan TimmonsDemocrats seek staffer salary boost to compete with K Street Financial market transactions should not be taxed or restricted The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Infrastructure, Cheney ouster on deck as Congress returns MORE represents South Carolina’s 4th District and is a member of the Financial Services Committee.