Build Back Better has plenty of goodies for small businesses.
While it contains tax increases that could affect pass-through businesses and venture firms, the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package--also known as President Biden's "Build Back Better" agenda or the Build Back Better Act--would inject $25 billion into small-business-related programs.
The funding is "aimed at our most challenged small businesses to provide justice in America in entrepreneurship," Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the chair of the Senate's Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship, said during a call with reporters Tuesday. Cardin, along with House Small Business Committee chair Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) and vice chair Kweisi Mfume (D-Md.), discussed provisions of the bill that relate to small businesses.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has said that congressional committees will have text drafted by Wednesday, just before lawmakers are out for Yom Kippur, according to Politico. Here are three major takeaways from the proposed legislation.
1. Direct lending for key SBA loan programs
The bill would allow the U.S. Small Business Administration to make its popular 7(a) and 504 loans directly, instead of through a commercial bank, according to the lawmakers. It allocates about $4.5 billion over 10 years for 7(a) for direct lending, and $2.8 billion over 10 years for 504. Further, the bill allows for 7(a) loans of up to $1 million for manufacturing companies and up to $150,000 for other small businesses, Cardin said. Small-business owners would be able to go straight to the SBA (just as they do for an EIDL advance or loan) to access the capital.
The provision was spurred by the experiences of founders who were "left behind" by the Paycheck Protection Program because they lacked banking relationships or their banks prioritized larger, more profitable loans, Velázquez said.
Because of Senate rules, a reconciliation bill can typically provide funds for no longer than 10 years, according to the Brookings Institution. Lawmakers, however, could try to make direct lending permanent if it works well, Cardin said.
2. Boosts to the SBIC program
An SBIC, or a small business investment company, is an investment fund licensed by the SBA that gives capital to U.S. businesses. SBICs borrow money from the SBA at favorable interest rates and bring their own money to the table to create a fund.
The new bill would create SBIC subprograms, called venture small business investment companies (VSBICs), per a House summary. One would invest $9.5 billion in "underserved markets and critical industries." Another provision allocates $20 million for a mentorship program for less experienced fund managers. The goal is to ensure managers are sourced from underserved areas, geographically and otherwise, Cardin said.
Ideally, these changes would provide "ample access to affordable capital," Velázquez added. More startup capital available from the government ultimately could mean more funding opportunities for your business.
3. Help with federal contracts
The federal government is the largest buyer of goods and services in the world--and the bill's backers want small businesses to get a greater cut.
Small businesses got a record $145 billion in federal contracts in 2020. However, the number of small businesses awarded government contracts went down by 38 percent from 2010 to 2019, according to a June report from the Bipartisan Policy Center, Goldman Sachs, and political action committee Center Forward.
Cardin named a few procurement-related provisions of the bill. One would increase the SBA's guarantee for surety bonds, which the SBA can give to a business to help it win government contracts, from $10 million to $20 million for federal contracts. Another would allocate $35 million for procurement training for veteran small-business owners. There is also $525 million for the "Pathway to Prime Grant Program," to help federal subcontractors--businesses that sell to people who sell to the federal government--become prime contractors and work with the government directly.