Small businesses are the backbone of America, and they are especially important to Rhode Island’s economy. In Rhode Island, small business owners employ a majority of the state’s private sector workers and account for the greater part of newly created jobs. Further, they bring new and innovative services and products to the marketplace and offer professional opportunities to diverse and traditionally underrepresented groups. Now more than ever, Congress must support the growth of America’s small businesses and help stimulate the engine of this nation’s economy.
Adequately Funding Loan Programs
I support full funding for critical small business loan and technical assistance programs, and I have been a staunch advocate for various Small Business Administration (SBA) loan programs. By providing loan guarantees to eligible small businesses that would otherwise be unable to secure financing, SBA loans fill the gap left by traditional private lenders and supply necessary capital for America’s small businesses to expand and create jobs. These programs include 7(a) loans for rural and disadvantaged businesses, 8(a) business development loans for minority-owned ventures, and HUBZone programs for federal contracting opportunities. In March of 2011, I hosted an SBA forum to encourage increased opportunities for Rhode Island’s women entrepreneurs, and have since hosted additional events to promote small business job growth within the state. The Rhode Island SBA District Office has additional information about assistance for local businesses.
Encouraging Research and Development
Tax incentives play a critical role in generating business investment and jobs. Research and development is the lifeblood of technological innovation, which serves as a catalyst for long-term economic growth. The Research and Development Tax credit, which was reauthorized in early 2013, is a wonderful tool for encouraging a stronger 21st Century economy.
I also support the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. These programs are designed to improve the competitiveness of small businesses in the fields of technology training and technology information exchange. They also assist small businesses in competing for federal research and development grants and contracts. In 2012, I hosted an SBIR forum to boost innovation opportunities for our state’s small businesses.
Making Health Coverage More Affordable
Although many small employers would like to offer health insurance to their employees, the increasing cost of coverage has made this a growing challenge for Rhode Island businesses. On average, small businesses pay about 18 percent more than large businesses for the same health insurance policy. That is one of the many reasons I supported the Affordable Care Act, which helps level the playing field by lowering costs for small businesses and increasing their bargaining power. At the same time, small business owners will have the flexibility to make the right choices for their business and their employees. The law has already made tax credits available to thousands of Rhode Island businesses to ease the burden of providing coverage. This Small Business Health Care Tax Credit can cover up to 35 percent of the premiums a small business pays to cover its workers. In 2014, the rate will increase to 50 percent. Additionally, starting in 2014, firms with 100 or fewer workers will be able pool their buying power and reduce administrative costs by purchasing insurance through the Rhode Island health insurance exchange. There is additional information about the Affordable Care Act and small businesses at healthcare.gov.