When we first began writing about small business issues, it was a rare occasion to hear small business discussed outside of insider circles. Now, it’s hard to scroll through Twitter or an Apple News feed and not see coverage and conversation about the fate of U.S. small businesses.
So as we come across interesting items about how to help the local small business community, we review them and share the best of them with our readers. We came across one of these recently on Inc.com. The author, Kimberly Weisul, recommends seven policies the new U.S. administration should adopt in order to make a positive impact on the small business community. We’ll list them below and offer our commentary. We’d sure like to hear from you.
1. Forget More Debt: Give Grants to Microbusinesses
This is certainly an interesting recommendation. In the current state of low-interest rates, the notion of grants is probably less compelling than when rates are higher. That said, cash flow is often cited as the single biggest factor that determines the survival or failure of a small business. Grants as an alternative to debt can certainly ease the cash flow challenges of most business owners. The author points out that the mechanism for grants is Community Development Financial Institutions – or CDFIs.
2. Loosen restrictions on PPP money
The author suggests that restrictions on how Payroll Protection Programs should be reduced. This is in keeping with a broad sense that small business owners have the entrepreneurial capacity to make the best use of money put into a business. We have seen on main streets throughout the country, the blooming of out-door-dining. Without the pandemic, those out-door-dining venues would have been months, if not years in the making giving local regulations. The urgency of the situation has minimized the often brutal regulation process. Loosening restrictions is almost always a good move.
3. Make the SBA a More Powerful Source for Growth Capital
As Kimberly points out, “The Small Business Administration’s flagship 7(a) program guarantees up to 85 percent of loans for amounts up to $5 million.” The SBA functions as a lending backstop for small businesses. Traditional banks, consider most small businesses risky investments given their high fatality rate. The role then of the SBA is to be that backstop and deliver more loans to small businesses. The author recommends raising the loan cap to $10 million. If a small business needs a loan of that size, it’s probably developed to the point where a traditional lending institution is a better option.
4. Institute an Employee-addition Tax Credit
This is a great idea. While The Cares Act that was passed last year provided for an employee-retention tax credit, a tax credit for adding new employees would also be a boon to the millions of unemployed. Policy decisions like this are clever because they put tax relief at the center of helping small businesses. This is something that enterprise businesses have long been able to use to their advantage. And often to the detriment of the small, local business.
5. License Smaller SBICs
There is another funding mechanism for small businesses. The Small Business Investment Company. These SBICs usually have a minimum threshold investment of $1 million. Many small businesses need considerably less than a million dollars. Lowering the threshold at which SBICs can lend means more small businesses can access inexpensive capital.
6. Extend the FFCRA
Another element of the federal government’s response to the pandemic was “The Families First Coronavirus Relief Act”. That act mandated that small companies offer paid sick leave to employees affected by Covid-19, and then gave them the money back via tax credits. The author’s suggestion that the program should be extended through the end of the year is correct.
7. Provide Interest-free Loans to Landlords
For the millions of businesses suffering from the challenges of the pandemic, finding creative ways for landlords to forgive or pause rents would be extremely helpful. The author suggests that the federal government “provide interest-free loans worth three months of rent to landlords that agree to rent moratoriums for that same period.” Such a program would help both the small businesses and the landlords. After all, many landlords are themselves small businesses.
So it’s great to see recommendations like this making their way around the internet. After all, we spend considerable energy at Localogy examining how technology and market structures impact the health of small businesses. So policy proposals like these being put forth by the author are equally important to cover and consider. And after what will be nearly two years of significant impact because of COVID 19, smart policy decisions by the new administration will go a long way to helping small businesses retain their underappreciated but oversized importance to the U.S. economy.