House Small Business Committee Holds First Hearing of 2019
By Jennifer Mangone
Despite the 116th Congress being sworn in on January 3, the partial government shutdown caused a bit of a delay in getting things moving on the Committee front. So, it was no surprise that the House Small Business Committee’s first hearing of 2019 was entitled “The Shutdown: Economic Impact on Small Businesses.”
There’s always a buzz of excitement in the Committee room at the beginning of a new Congress and the environment for today’s hearing was no exception. In her new role (but not first time) as Chair, Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) got right down to business, introducing her colleagues on the Committee, including Ranking Member (and former Chair) Steve Chabot (R-OH), stressing the importance of the bipartisanship the House Small Business Committee is known for, and introducing the witnesses who would be testifying.
The stories of four witnesses on the government shutdown impact on the nation’s small businesses were delivered to a standing room only crowd. The robust witness list included: Dr. Matthew Shapiro, Professor of Economics at the University of Michigan; Bill Butcher, founder of Port City Brewing Company; Heidi Gerding, CEO of HeiTech Services, Inc.; and Charles “Tee” Rowe, President and CEO of America’s Small Business Development Centers.
The hearing testimony and questioning centered primarily around the shutdown impact on SBA Lending and Entrepreneurial Development Programs and Small Business Contracting, but also delved into unforeseen consequences. For example, because SBA was closed during the shutdown, 7(a) and 504 loans were at a standstill. Rowe told the story of a borrower who was expecting an SBA loan approval for a new location for his restaurant. He operates on a month-to-month lease and had given notice that he was moving, expecting his SBA funding to come through, allowing him to move to a new, permanent location. He waited for the government to reopen in fear that his landlord might evict him from his current building once a new tenant was found, meanwhile missing payments and delaying construction on the new location.
Rowe went on to say that most SBDC services were able to carry on during the shutdown, due to their host institutions and partners having the flexibility to provide support during a short period. The real brunt, he emphasized, was born by the thousands of small business across the country who use SBDC services.
The Small Business Committee members of the 116th Congress listened carefully throughout the hour and a half long hearing. While there are many differences of opinion on how to avoid shutdowns in the future, and on how to prevent the government from lapsing into another on February 15, one thing is clear: the stories of impact on small businesses are real and no one wants to go through this again. The impact from the last is already too great.
You can view the written witness testimony and to watch a recording of the hearing here.