PHOENIX — Small businesses are the backbone of our communities nationwide and Arizona is no exception.
Nearly half of our private workforce is employed by a small business here in Arizona and so many have been hit hard by this pandemic.
So what is the Biden Administration doing to change that? ABC15 spoke exclusively to the head of the Small Business Administration, Isabella Casillas Guzman, to find out.
More than 550,000 small businesses across Arizona make up nearly 45% of the state's private workforce. It's no secret small businesses are an integral, ever-growing part of our economy.
"It was really important for me to come on the ground to see some of these small businesses and how they use the SBA to survive during this time and how we can position new services to make sure we serve them into the future," explains Isabella Casillas Guzman, the 27th administrator of the Small Business Administration.
Guzman says some of the goals of the SBA include improving access to low-cost loans, creating a broader network of lenders, and giving businesses easier access to lending.
But some have asked about minority and female-owned small businesses, who historically have had a more difficult time securing loans in the private sector.
"The Biden-Harris administration has prioritized equity, especially because we saw during the pandemic that historically, before that, a lot of our emerging entrepreneurs – people of color and women – who are starting small businesses at high rates have had challenges accessing capital to grow their small business and we want them to expand their employment and grow their revenue because it helps our economy advance."
Administrator Guzman went on to explain how the Build Back Better legislation could help improve lending conditions and other aspects of owning a small business.
"Within BBB, it’s all about lowering healthcare costs and costs around prescription drugs and childhood and elder care, but it's also about lowering the cost to access capital for small businesses because it invests in the SBA and provides the expansion of lenders to really support small businesses..."
But with BBB currently on hold in Congress, what happens if it doesn't pass? I asked Guzman, is there a Plan B?
"Yes, of course, and the SBA and the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to being able to transform our programs and focus on the customer experience to make sure businesses can come to the SBA and meet their needs today," Guzman said.
Small businesses have fared better than most in this pandemic. In fact, according to the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, Arizona routinely ranks at or near the top for month-to-month growth, but one thing they worry could derail that momentum is over-regulation.
"Navigating government is one of the challenges that small businesses and all businesses face," explains Admin. Guzman. "And so that’s part of why we wanted to make sure we launched Community Navigators and expand our network. We know that small businesses don’t always have time to play HR and we want to make sure we can provide them with the strategies and resources. We want to meet businesses where they are and provide simple access to government and resources but of course, making sure we have safe environments and healthy prospects for our economic growth."
Admin. Guzman went on to comment on the resilience she has seen in small businesses, especially in our state, as so many work to rebound from what has been an incredibly difficult two years.
"It's in our core as Americans that entrepreneurial spirit so grit to see that it’s been revitalized as people look for opportunities to grow."
The SBA is no longer accepting new applications for PPP loans, but if you are a small business owner and are still struggling, know that there is help out there.
Also, back in October, Governor Doug Ducey's office announced more than $3 million in additional funding for small businesses in Arizona.