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Event Recap | SBA Task Force launch

“There’s a lot of enthusiasm on both sides of the aisle to lend a helping hand to small businesses.” – Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL)

As Congressman Foster highlighted during a recent BPC event, small businesses and entrepreneurs have historically enjoyed bipartisan support in Washington. The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was conceived by Democrats and Republicans together as a crisis response measure in the spring of 2020. Bipartisan bills are routinely introduced each session of Congress with the aim of helping small businesses and entrepreneurs.

There is not always, however, agreement on the details of what small businesses and entrepreneurs need from government. The Small Business Act, the operative legislation for the Small Business Administration (SBA), has not been reauthorized in over two decades. The SBA has of course continued to fulfill its mission despite this. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it deployed roughly 40 years’ worth of traditional lending support in just 14 months.

Republicans and Democrats do agree that the SBA showcased its strengths and abilities during the crisis—but also that the pandemic exposed areas where improvement and enhanced capabilities are needed. In response, the Bipartisan Policy Center launched a Task Force on the Future of SBA. The new effort was announced during the October 14th event at which Rep. Foster spoke.

After brief remarks from the Task Force’s two co-chairs, Ann Marie Mehlum and Pradeep Belur, two other members of the Task Force discussed the why of the Task Force. Chris Ledesma and Chris Pilkerton discussed the opportunity they see at hand for bipartisan reforms that will double-down on SBA’s strengths and help provide it with new capabilities to meet evolving challenges.

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Both Pilkerton and Ledesma emphasized that the Task Force seeks input from as many corners as possible. Small businesses employ half of the private sector workforce, while new and young companies account for the lion’s share of net new job creation each year. Any policy agenda for small business and entrepreneurship—especially one with bipartisan support—must gather insight from a broad swath of the country.

  • “This has got to be an all hands on deck effort, it’s critical for our country, it’s critical for the agency, but it’s critical for that person out there who’s thinking, ‘hey should I start a small business?’” – Chris Pilkerton, chief legal and regulatory strategy office, Accion Opportunity Fund

  • “I would like to hear from others around what they think about where the SBA can go. … We need stakeholders, we need people in the communities and others with expertise in this area. It’s not necessarily all about the SBA, it’s about how we all interact with the agency and how we can all get better. We need all voices in the room to help us do that.” – Chris Ledesma, senior vice president of SBA lending, Wells Fargo

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