America's workers and small business owners need the SECURE Act
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The American workforce has changed drastically over the past decade – small businesses now account for over 99 percent of businesses in the U.S. and small business employees make up over 40 percent of the American workforce.

Just as the workforce has changed, so have the financial needs of Americans and the way that they prepare for retirement. Having access to a workplace retirement plan is a top gauge of retirement preparedness. For many Americans, the workplace is one of the main places where they seek out retirement savings tools. Small business owners wear many hats, and decisions on their employees’ benefits such as health care plans and retirement planning tools are often left solely to them. Offering these benefits may feel too complicated or inaccessible – as such, many business owners do not provide them to their employees. With almost half of the American workforce employed by small businesses, a large portion of the population’s financial futures are left compromised.

Small business employees — many of whom are balancing the financial needs of today with the need to prepare for retirement tomorrow – need the authority in deciding their financial futures. And providing that opportunity begins in Washington.

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The SECURE Act, short for Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act, was introduced earlier this year by House Way and Means Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealOn The Money: Trump signs short-term spending bill to avoid shutdown | Pelosi casts doubt on USMCA deal in 2019 | California high court strikes down law targeting Trump tax returns Democrats press Trump officials over drop in ObamaCare signups amid website problems Pelosi casts doubt on USMCA deal in 2019 MORE (D-Mass.), Ranking Member Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyLawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families How centrist Dems learned to stop worrying and love impeachment On The Money: Senate passes first spending package as shutdown looms | Treasury moves to roll back Obama rules on offshore tax deals | Trade deal talks manage to weather Trump impeachment storm MORE (R-Texas), Rep. Ron KindRonald (Ron) James KindCongressional authority in a time of Trump executive overreach Trump tax breaks for low-income neighborhoods draw scrutiny Alcohol industry races to save tax break by year-end deadline MORE (D-Wis.) and Rep. Mike KellyGeorge (Mike) Joseph KellyAlcohol industry races to save tax break by year-end deadline Democrats ramp up oversight efforts over 'opportunity zone' incentive Genetic counselors save health care dollars when involved in the testing process MORE (R-Pa.). It is one of the largest overhauls of the U.S. retirement system to come in decades.

This much needed and highly anticipated reform is an opportunity to create new avenues for making workplace retirement plans easier to offer for small business owners. In fact, a recent Nationwide business owner survey uncovered that 59 percent of business owners think that the SECURE Act would have a positive impact on their ability to offer a 401(k) plan and 80 percent say that the passage of the SECURE Act will allow them to offer a 401(k) plan that rivals those offered at large corporations.

As the largest small business insurer in the country, Nationwide is focused on the needs of America’s small business owners. We are working to make it easier to establish workplace retirement plans so small business owners everywhere can offer these benefits to employees.

To help ensure that small businesses’ needs are heard and support their employees, we have been constructively engaged with lawmakers on legislative reform of the U.S. retirement system for the past decade. And now, it is important that we band together to recognize the SECURE Act as a steppingstone in helping solve the looming retirement crisis that so many Americans face today.

A highly regarded and discussed provision of the SECURE Act is the opening of multiple employer plans (MEPs) – a concept that we helped to develop in early retirement reform discussions. Nationwide worked alongside Rep. Ron Kind to make MEPs more accessible and favorable to small business owners by enacting a less highly publicized, but equally as important, provision of the SECURE Act: the small business tax credit.

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The provision increases the tax credit available to small businesses that start a new retirement plan for their workers. The bill increases the credit from $500/year up to $5,000/year for three years, meaning the maximum credit is now $15,000 over three years.

The SECURE Act provides more opportunity for small businesses to set up and maintain 401(k) and IRA plans for their employees. The small business tax credit and open MEPs encourage access to workplace retirement plans – but it is important that both provisions work in tandem to truly improve participation for small business owners and their employees.

Small businesses are increasingly expanding their footprint and influence in the U.S. economy. As they continue to grow and gain stake, we cannot forget about the employees who are driving innovation forward in our country.

While the Senate’s attempt to fast-track the much-anticipated SECURE Act came to a halt in May, the delay cannot prompt complacency with the current system.

Building secure financial futures begins by providing all American workers with access to retirement planning tools. There is an urgent need for the Senate to pass the SECURE Act and to encourage small businesses to start workplace retirement plans for their employees.

For small business employees who are currently denied access to secure retirements, the SECURE Act helps give them the opportunity to establish successful financial futures. Providing avenues for small businesses to support their employees is of utmost importance, and that change begins with Congress.

John Carter is president and COO of Nationwide Financial.