The Senate has passed six bills which aim to improve the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and investment in small businesses, including one aimed at improving access to broadband internet.
Senate Passes Small Business Cyber Training Act
The Small Business Broadband and Emerging Technology Enhancement Act was introduced by Senators Jeanne Shaheen and John Kennedy and will equip the SBA with the leadership and resources the organization needs to help small businesses access broadband internet. The bills were praised by U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Chair, Ben Cardin, who believes the bills address several critical areas of concern for small business owners.
Broadband Internet for Small Businesses
Access to broadband has become a priority issue since the Covid-19 pandemic forced a lot of small businesses to adopt virtual operations. It is a particular concern in more rural areas such as New Hampshire where broadband coverage is not as dense as it is in cities.
The new bill will direct the SBA Office of Investment and Innovation to designate a senior employee to serve as the broadband and emerging information technology (BEIT) coordinator. There will be BEIT training for SBA employees to enable them to assist small businesses. Services such as assistance in accessing and using BEIT will also become authorized activities in small business development centers.
Another part of the broadband bill includes biennial reports on the programs and activities of the SBA relating to broadband and other emerging information technologies. There is also a requirement for the SBA Chief Counsel for Advocacy to evaluate the impact of broadband speed and price on small businesses.
Reliable Broadband ‘Key to Small Business Success’
Senator Shaheen explained the reasoning behind the bill, saying: “Small businesses are engines of economic growth and the heart of communities across New Hampshire. That’s why it’s been heartbreaking to see so many small business owners teeter on the edge of bankruptcy throughout the pandemic. As we begin to put the pandemic behind us and businesses resume their operations, they need tools to boost their resilience moving forward. Reliable broadband is key to their success.
“I’m reintroducing this bipartisan bill to improve SBA programs that expand access to broadband services, particularly in underserved and rural areas. This would build on the historic investments I helped secure as part of the bipartisan infrastructure law that will close the digital divide and improve the success of small businesses and families alike. I urge the Senate to act quickly on this commonsense bill to help small businesses evolve and overcome challenges exacerbated by the pandemic.”
Bills for Small Business Success
Along with the broadband bill and those for improving the SBA’s disaster assistance and cyber training capacities, a bill for small business compliance was also passed, as was a bill for aiming to expand investment into businesses from underserved communities.
Now the bills have been passed by the Senate, they go to the House of Representatives for further analysis before being finalized.
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