Readout of Roundtable on Capital Access for Small Businesses
Yesterday, the Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA) Isabel Guzmán, the Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo, American Rescue Plan Coordinator Gene Sperling, and Deputy Director of the National Economic Council Bharat Ramamurti were joined by U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper (D-CO) and small business leaders, advocates, and mission lenders with particular expertise in reaching minority small businesses to discuss the Biden-Harris Administration’s small business agenda to expand capital access, including newly proposed rules from the SBA and historic investments by the Treasury Department in CDFIs. The group included non-profit mission lender groups, Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), foundations, and advocacy groups all seasoned in meeting the needs of historically underserved small business owners.
Participants agreed on the importance of breaking down barriers to capital by meeting small business owners where they are, providing multiple paths to accessing capital, and offering support services needed to navigate available programs to better reach underserved small business owners. The Biden-Harris Administration is working to address these needs in a number of ways, including through investments in the American Rescue Plan that have helped set the stage for supporting small businesses for years to come. SBA is proposing reforms that would make it easier for lenders to work with SBA to offer small dollar loans, expanding the pool of lenders and capital options for small businesses with a focus on the historically underserved. Treasury has launched an interagency effort to identify gaps in services for underserved communities and made historic investments in the CDFIs that often serve as the primary lender for minority-owned businesses.
Administrator Guzmán provided an overview of her capital access reform agenda for the SBA. This included the proposal to lift the moratorium on Small Business Lending Company (SBLC) licenses, proposed reforms to the Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) Program, and proposed streamlining and modernization of the affiliation, lending criteria, and employee ownership requirements for the SBA’s Business Loan Programs. The proposed SBLC rule would allow SBA to pilot this expansion of lending activity while ensuring proper lender engagement and protection protocols. The Administrator identified the priority for these new SBLC licenses to focus on a diverse representation of lenders that responsibly meet the capital needs of the smallest businesses, minority businesses, and rural communities. In addition, later this year SBA plans to launch significant technological improvements to its small business borrower-lender matching tool, improving the experience and ease of matching potential borrower and lenders.
The Deputy Secretary spoke to the historic cooperation in the Biden-Harris Administration between agencies to support underserved communities, especially when it comes to community investment and access to capital. Through the Emergency Capital Investment Program, CDFI Fund, and State Small Business Credit Initiative, Treasury has deployed billions in funding to assist small and minority-owned businesses and consumers. In July, Vice President Harris announced the formation of the Interagency Community Investment Committee (ICIC), chaired by the Treasury Department, which has since led a process to solicit input on how agencies can better align to support underserved communities.
Senator Hickenlooper emphasized the critical nature of expanding small business activity nationwide and highlighted the role responsibly regulated fintechs can play in expanding access to affordable capital for underserved small businesses while protecting the integrity of the system.
In the meeting, participants commended the Biden-Harris Administration on these initiatives that have improved access to capital and addressed persistent gaps in lending. One participant raised how welcome and necessary the proactive consideration around expanding SBLC licenses to focus on mission-based lenders would be, and commended SBA for prioritizing a measured expansion of licenses to ensure consumer protections. Another leading small business advocate highlighted how the expansion of SBLC licenses would allow for a diversification of lending options, including mission lenders and responsible fintech options, to fill acute capital gaps and commended the SBA’s borrower protection principles. Multiple participants highlighted the importance of making sure capital allocators reflect the diversity of America and its small businesses owners. The group discussed the critical opportunity to expand the use of technology to scale lending operations, alternative underwriting models, and technical assistance delivery.