Sunday, March 17, 2019

small business administration

small business administration


Small Business Administration: Export Promotion Grant Program Should Better Ensure Compliance with Law and Help States Make Full Use of Funds - Government Accountability Office

Posted: 12 Mar 2019 07:03 AM PDT

What GAO Found

The Small Business Administration's (SBA) management of the State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) does not provide reasonable assurance of compliance with some legal requirements. Specifically, the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 (TFTEA) requirements for STEP include:

Proportional distribution requirement. SBA's Office of International Trade (OIT) must distribute grant funds so that the total amount awarded to the 10 states with the highest percentage of eligible small businesses does not exceed 40 percent of the program's appropriation that year.

Total match requirement. States must provide a 25 or 35 percent non-federal match to the federal grant amount.

Cash match requirement. A state's match cannot be less than 50 percent cash.

GAO found that, while OIT has a process to meet the distribution requirement, it does not have a process for documenting that states have met the total match requirement before grant closeout, and does not have a process to determine whether states are meeting the cash match requirement. Without such processes, SBA cannot be reasonably assured that states are contributing per the law's requirements.

GAO found that, while OIT has made changes to STEP in response to states' feedback, officials from states with low grant use described ongoing challenges with the program that affect their ability to fully use funds. These challenges include compressed application and award timelines, administrative burden, and poor communication. SBA has not adequately assessed risks to the program, including the risk to achieving program goals posed by some states' low grant fund use rates. Without such an assessment, OIT's ability to support U.S. exporters may be diminished. Further, SBA has not effectively facilitated sharing best practices among states. By doing this, SBA could help states make full use of funds to achieve the program's goals.

Twelve States with Low STEP Grant Fund Use Rates Reported Challenges

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Why GAO Did This Study

Congress established STEP in 2010 to increase small business exports. Through STEP, SBA has awarded about $139 million in grants to state trade offices, which in turn facilitate small business export activities, including participation in trade missions and attendance at trade shows. Congress reauthorized STEP in 2016. GAO was asked to review SBA's management of the program.

This report examines the extent to which (1) SBA's STEP grants management process provides reasonable assurance of compliance with selected requirements of applicable law, and (2) SBA has taken steps to address challenges states report in using grant funds to achieve program goals. GAO reviewed the program's authorizing legislation and federal and agency guidance on grants management, analyzed SBA program data, and interviewed SBA officials. GAO also conducted semi-structured interviews with a non-generalizable sample of 12 of the 40 states that received STEP grants in fiscal year 2015, the most recent year for which complete data were available. GAO selected these states on the basis of their low grant fund use rates.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is recommending that SBA develop processes to ensure compliance with legal grant matching fund requirements, take steps to assess risks to program goals from low grant fund use rates, and enhance the sharing of best practices among states receiving the grant. SBA concurred with all of the recommendations.

For more information, contact Kimberly Gianopoulos at (202) 512-8612 or gianopoulosk@gao.gov.

Small Business Administration issues disaster declaration; low-interest loans available - DailyTrib.com

Posted: 13 Mar 2019 02:58 PM PDT

FROM STAFF REPORTS

Volunteer Robert Cook helped clean out a home on Lakeshore Drive in Marble Falls in October after historic flooding. Staff photo by Jared Fields

Volunteer Robert Cook helped clean out a home on Lakeshore Drive in Marble Falls in October after historic flooding. Staff photo by Jared Fields

Homeowners, renters, and business owners who suffered losses and damages due to the October 2018 flood now could be eligible for low-interest loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The SBA issued a disaster declaration for several Texas counties, including Burnet and Llano counties, for the severe storms and flooding that occurred Sept. 10-Nov. 2, 2018.

The declaration makes SBA assistance available in Burnet, Llano, Blanco, Travis, and Williamson counties along with 15 other counties. To assist residents and businesses, the SBA has set up three Disaster Loan Outreach Centers. The locations and hours of those centers are:

  • Burnet County — Courthouse Annex South, 810 Steve Hawkins Parkway in Marble Falls. Open 8 a.m.-5 p.m Mondays-Fridays
  • Llano County — First Baptist Church, 3435 RR 1431 in Kingsland. Open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays-Fridays
  • Travis County — West Service Center, 4501 FM 620 North in Austin. Open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays-Fridays

While a federal disaster declaration in February for Burnet and Llano counties opened up Federal Emergency Management Agency Public Assistance and Hazard Mitigation grant programs for local governments for reimbursement for expenses, it didn't necessarily address needs of homeowners, businesses, and nonprofits.

"Low-interest federal disaster loans are available to businesses of all sizes, most private nonprofit organizations, homeowners, and renters whose property was damaged or destroyed by this disaster," said Tanya N. Garfield, director of the SBA's Disaster Field Operations Center-West.

The SBA will have representatives on hand at the outreach centers to answer questions about the administration's disaster loan program as well as help people through the application process.

Businesses and private nonprofits may borrow up to $2 million for property losses and damages as well as economic injury assistance if the flood causes a loss in business, revenues, and fundraising or economic hardships. A business or eligible nonprofit need not have suffered property damage to apply for the economic injury assistance.

Homeowners are eligible for disaster loans up to $200,000 to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate. Renters and homeowners can also seek up to $40,000 loans to repair or replace damaged or destroyed personal property.

Interest rates can be as low as 3.675 percent for businesses, 2.5 percent for private nonprofits, and 2 percent for homeowners and renters with terms up to 30 years. Loan amounts and terms are set by the SBA and are based on each applicant's financial condition.

Applicants may also apply online, receive additional disaster assistance information, and download applications at the SBA's website. People can also contact the SBA's Customer Service Center at (800) 659-2955 or disastercustomerservice@sba.gov for more information.

The deadline to apply for property damage is May 6, 2019. The deadline to apply for economic injury is Dec. 6, 2019.

editor@thepicayune.com

Small Business Administration calls on small business owners to take part in free business development program - WRTV Indianapolis

Posted: 04 Mar 2019 12:00 AM PST

Hiring Hoosiers is a new initiative from RTV6 that works to connect Hoosiers to employment opportunities, career development resources, training programs and educational paths. In our Hiring Hoosiers reports we are taking a closer look at barriers to employment and things that get in the way of people getting the jobs they need to support themselves and their families. For more information, visit HiringHoosiers.com.

INDIANAPOLIS — The Small Business Administration of Indiana is looking for local companies that want to further develop their business by taking part in their Emerging Leaders program.

Only a little more than 60 percent of small businesses survive at least two years, and about half of those survive at least five years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Ila Mitchell, president of Mitchell & Sons HVAC, Inc. in Indianapolis, has been in business since 2009. It was not until a few years into owning his company that Mitchell realized he needed to work on his workflow.

"I had actually grown my business too fast," says Mitchell. "I had cash flow issues badly when I went into the program."

Mitchell is an IUPUI Kelley School of Business grad and says he thought he had the knowledge he needed to run his business. However, he signed up for the SBA's Emerging Leaders program to see if there was anything more he could do for his business.

"It actually turned everything around for me," explains Mitchell. "I was in the survival stage of my business. I had been working for years, for five or six years, however, I didn't know how to get the business to that next level."

The Emerging Leaders initiative provides free entrepreneurship education and training for executives of small companies that are potential job creators.

"They are going to walk out with a three to five year strategic business plan," explains Stacey Poynter, the District Director of the Indiana Small Business Administration. "We bring in all kinds of partners, that come in and provide free advice from legal type of advice to accounting advice and things about taking their business to the next level."

The program includes nearly 100 hours of classroom time over seven months, but it also provides opportunities for small business owners to work with experienced coaches and mentors, attend workshops, and develop connections with their peers, local leaders, and the financial community.

"It's all time that you are investing back into your business to grow your business," says Poynter. "It is an opportunity to get a street-wise MBA working on your business, for free."

The SBA program is a priceless tool for Mitchell and his business, as he plans to keep his HVAC and construction company going for decades through the leadership of his sons.

"Emerging Leaders is just a wonderful program," says Mitchell. They say it's like a mini-MBA. But the context and the people that you meet is probably more valuable than the information. So for me, it just changed everything. I don't know how I would have gotten here without having that experience, because I am not in survival anymore. I know we will continue to exist, now it is about being strategic and how you grow so that you know you, end up where you want to be."

The next set of classes start in April and the SBA is looking to fill the class with 20 small business owners that can commit one evening every other week for seven months.

Criteria to apply include:
-Have annual revenues of at least $250,000
-Have been in business for at least three years
-Have at least one employee, other than self

To apply go to the SBA or Interise websites.

For more stories like this visit our Hiring Hoosiers website.

White House Declines to Help GAO Review Appointee Ethics Disclosures - GovExec.com

Posted: 15 Mar 2019 12:26 PM PDT

Citing little help from the White House, a congressional watchdog on Friday criticized a shortage of public information about precisely who is serving in presidentially appointed positions and their possible financial conflicts.

The Government Accountability Office, after examining ethics office records at the Interior Department, the Health and Human Services Department and the Small Business Administration, said in a report that, "There is no single source of publicly available, comprehensive, and timely data on appointees."

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The information on training in ethics disclosures too often is spotty, auditors added, recommending action by agency heads "who have a special responsibility to exercise leadership in ethics," as well as improvements in documentation on appointee pledges in ethics offices at Interior and SBA.

"Some data are available on political appointees serving in the Executive Branch but the data have limitations that impede their usefulness," auditors found. "To facilitate independent review and analysis related to political appointees, members of the public need access to information on who is serving in political appointee positions. Otherwise, they are limited in their ability to discern whether appointees are performing their duties free of conflict," while making congressional oversight more difficult, GAO added.

Two agencies, the Office of Personnel Management and the White House Office of Presidential Personnel, GAO said, are positioned to report these data, "but there are some benefits and drawbacks of each agency's current capacity."

Moments after the report's release, two Democratic senators and a House oversight chairman released statements underlining the widely reported ethics controversies over business holdings of now-departed Secretary Ryan Zinke, and noting that the White House ethics disclosure policies haven't been examined by GAO since 2003.

"Strong ethics programs are necessary to ensure that we can trust our government," said Sen. Gary Peters, ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. "Americans have a right to know that public servants are acting in the people's best interests and that their decisions are free from personal conflicts of interest."

"For the past two years, the American people have watched the Trump Administration blatantly disregard the ethical norms that have guided previous administrations, regardless of party," added Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del. "Regrettably, today's GAO report shows more of the same. Upholding basic ethical standards for our government should not be a partisan issue; it's good, common-sense policy that is necessary for a healthy democracy."

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., chairman of the Oversight and Reform Committee, said he is "also outraged at the systematic obstruction by the White House of the work of the nonpartisan GAO."

In their joint release, the Democrats mentioned that Comptroller General Gene Dodaro as recently as March  6 told the House Oversight panel that GAO had requested information from the White House Counsel's Office for "five different audit engagements" since President Trump took office and did not receive information in any of them. (GAO did interview presidential personnel staff from previous administrations.)

The White House did not respond to Government Executive's queries.

Specifically, GAO documented that nine appointees at Interior and one at HHS had missed deadlines for signing ethics pledges, and two from SBA and one from Interior filed new reports late. SBA did establish new tracking procedures, the report said, during GAO's review last month.

"Interior's ethics program has human capital and workforce continuity challenges," the report said, noting that four out of 14 full-time positions are vacant. "Interior officials attributed the vacancies to a recent transformation of the ethics program and prioritizing the staffing at individual bureaus such as the National Park Service."

GAO recommended that Congress consider legislation to require collection and publication of information on appointees. It also recommended that SBA document completion of ethics training and that Interior conduct more strategic planning for its ethics workforce and document ethics program policies and procedures. SBA acknowledged receipt but did not comment on the recommendations; Interior managers agreed.

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