There is no question that President Obama has had an aggressive first 100 days in office and I commend him for his tireless efforts to lead the country through numerous unprecedented challenges. I had the opportunity to work closely with President Obama and his Administration in crafting a $787 billion economic stimulus plan that will help lift the ailing economy, create or retain 3 million jobs, and further assist working families, seniors, and entrepreneurs weather the economic storm. The President, so far, has kept an open line of communication and has listened to my views, which I certainly appreciate.
Yet as President Obama reaches the 100-day mark of his term, it is clear that the initial vigor and determination he displayed in helping small businesses outlast our economic recession has diminished. Most noticeably, his Administration's slow progress in implementing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), also known as the stimulus, is short-changing our nation's job creators. Indeed, as a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report shows, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has implemented just two of eight provisions in that bill for which it is responsible. I urge the President to quickly implement the remaining measures.
From the start, President Obama moved quickly to work with Congress in passing the critical stimulus bill during his first month in office. This legislation included multiple provisions to benefit small businesses that Senator Mary Landrieu and I, Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, fought for. On March 16th, I joined the President for a Small Business Summit which called together small business owners, legislators, and key Administration officials to the White House. At that time, he announced that the Administration would immediately implement two crucial provisions from the stimulus – temporarily reducing or eliminating fees for the SBA's 7(a) and 504 loan programs, and increasing the SBA's maximum guarantee to 90 percent on its 7(a) loans. Additionally, the President announced that $15 billion in Troubled Asset Relief Program funds will be used to directly purchase pools of SBA loans.
As a result of the expedient implementation of these two key provisions, the SBA is now approving 28 percent more loans per week than it was previously, according to the GAO report. I can only imagine what the impact could have been if all the small business provisions of ARRA had been implemented by now.
For instance, while the Administration has been trumpeting the business stabilization loan program that would guarantee certain SBA loans of $35,000 or less, it has still yet to implement this vital provision. Simply put, this measure would provide struggling small businesses with an immediate and much-needed lifeline to weather the current financial storm. At a time when too many businesses on Main Street are shutting their doors, these loans will provide critical assistance in reversing this trend. Additionally, the Administration has missed deadlines to put other provisions into practice, including the establishment of SBA secondary market guarantee and lending authorities.
In the three months of President Obama's term, national unemployment has risen from 7.6 percent in January to 8.5 percent in March. In seeking to reduce this disturbing climb in unemployment and put Americans back to work, we must employ the skills and strengths of our nation's 27 million small businesses – including the roughly 150,000 here in Maine.
President Obama must be a steadfast and determined advocate for small businesses as they are the key to economic revitalization. I urge him to be more actively involved in creating and implementing these critical policies to promote and advance small businesses. At last month's White House summit, he said that, "Our recovery in the present and our prosperity in the future depend upon the success of America's small businesses and entrepreneurs." We need President Obama to act on this belief. His first 100 days are behind him, and from the perspective of small business, much remains to be done.