SECURE it — for small businesses and their workers
I have always believed that small businesses are the engines of the American economy and now is certainly a great time to be a small business owner. The nation’s economic expansion has been tremendous for American workers. Companies are prospering—creating jobs and economic opportunity that benefit millions of individuals and their families. The nation’s unemployment rate is at historic lows. And while we all know the economy ebbs and flows, we are hopeful that this trend will continue.
I have served on the Small Business Committee for over 20 years, and I’ve seen how small businesses play a critical role in helping the nation and its citizens prosper. According to the Small Business Administration, between 2000 and 2017, small businesses created 8.4 million net new jobs. That’s almost half a million jobs a year – enough jobs to employ my home city of Cincinnati’s entire population. I’ve seen first-hand the hard work and dedication small business owners put into their companies to get them off the ground and to succeed.
Still, robust economic growth and low unemployment can present their own challenges, especially for the 6 million small businesses that employ nearly half of the nation’s private-sector workers.
In order for these businesses to grow and thrive, they must recruit and retain talented employees. In a tight labor market, companies must compete to attract the best and brightest workers. It’s in this area that large businesses have a distinct advantage over smaller firms. Their deeper resources enable them to offer generous compensation packages that workers want and need. With Americans living longer, the option of long-term financial security has become increasingly more attractive. And so large companies who offer retirement plans, like a 401(k), become difficult to compete with.
It’s not that small businesses don’t want to offer their employees an opportunity to save for their futures; they most certainly do. But offering a retirement plan is no simple task. It requires staff and resources to comply with the legal, administrative and other requirements that come with managing a plan. Most small business owners simply do not have the capacity to handle these obligations without in turn sacrificing everything they have worked so hard to achieve.
The math is straightforward. If small businesses cannot offer a retirement plan, they will have a harder time recruiting talented employees. Without the right talent, they cannot continue to thrive.
Fortunately, legislation now moving through Congress would help level the playing field. The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act provides small businesses a means to help our employees achieve brighter, more secure financial futures.
The bill would allow small businesses to band together to offer a workplace retirement plan. For example, a baker could team up with a dry cleaner and a barber shop to offer a 401(k) to their employees—something they can’t do today. By combining resources, they can share the costs and responsibilities of offering and managing a plan.
The SECURE Act also offers employers a tax credit to help with plan start-up costs.
For these small businesses, the SECURE Act is a game-changer. It would enable them to provide an important and in-demand employee benefit. More importantly, it would address a critical need by getting more people to save for retirement.
In fact, if the SECURE Act is signed into law, it’s estimated that at least 700,000 additional workers at small businesses would start saving for retirement, according to the American Council of Life Insurers.
Beyond helping workers save, the SECURE Act addresses their concerns about running out of money in retirement. It would also be easier for employers to offer workplace retirement plans with annuities that guarantee an income for life. Essentially, annuities allow workers to create their own personal pension.
These and other common sense solutions are why the SECURE Act has strong support in Congress. In May, the bill passed the House 417 to 3; an amazing, bipartisan achievement especially in these hyper-partisan times.
Now it’s time for the Senate to do their part and pass the SECURE Act so that we can send it to the president’s desk. On behalf of small business owners and the millions of workers they support, I urge the Senate to make passage of the SECURE Act a priority.
Steve Chabot is ranking member of the Small Business Committee.