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Mr. BURRIS. I thank the distinguished Senator from Connecticut, who
has certainly been an inspiration to me in this body, and an inspiration to all of us. I will be leaving with him, although I certainly did not come with him. But he has been an inspiration to all of us. He knows what my--I will not say publicly, but I thought the Senator would have made a heck of a Supreme Court Justice.
Madam President, as a public servant, I have long been a strong advocate for American small businesses--especially disadvantaged and minority-owned businesses.
And even before I sought elected office, when I was a banker, I worked hard every day to spur investment on Main Street.
I fought to make capital available to small businesses, so entrepreneurs and innovators could create jobs and bring prosperity to local communities.
But in today's harsh economic climate, many of these businesses are finding it harder than ever to stay afloat.
Credit has largely dried up, and capital investment is difficult to come by.
And even as our economy begins to inch along the road to recovery, small and disadvantaged businesses continue to lag behind.
I believe we need to do better.
I believe we need to place small businesses at the very center of our response to this economic crisis. They are uniquely positioned to create well-paying jobs and generate growth at a local level--so it is time to make them a priority again. Because, if this Congress fails to take action, if we neglect to pass the Small Business Lending Act, and fall short of our commitment to America's innovators and entrepreneurs, then I fear that our Nation will slip into a jobless recovery, and disadvantaged businesses will continue to suffer the full effects of this great recession.
I recognize that government cannot directly create jobs in the same way that the private sector can. But few can deny that government has an important role to play in setting America back on the road to recovery.
Our job is to support and encourage responsible practices, impose common sense regulations, and help to direct investment to the areas that need it most. That is why I believe we need to pay special attention to the disadvantaged and minority-owned small businesses that have borne the brunt of this crisis.
Under current law, the Small Business Administration provides key support to these entities through its 8-A program. This initiative offers technical assistance, training, and contracting opportunities to small businesses that meet specific criteria. I am a strong supporter of this program, which has helped to keep disadvantaged businesses viable, and made sure everyone has the chance to share in economic prosperity. Since its inception, 8-A has made a difference in countless communities, and eased some of the worst effects of this crisis for those who stood to suffer the most. Yet, despite its success, this program's impact has been artificially limited, because only a small number of businesses are eligible for this kind of support.
As we cast about for a solution to our economic troubles, I believe we should leave no stone unturned.
At various times since the onset of the recession, both Democrats and Republicans have come to the table with constructive ideas. Many of these have been passed into law--and I think they have made a real difference. But we must not find false security in early reports of success.
We have made progress--but the situation remains fragile. There is still much more to be done. That is why I have introduced an amendment that would improve and expand the 8-A program.
This measure would increase the continued eligibility amount, from $750,000 to $2.5 million, so more small businesses could benefit from this assistance.
It is no secret that minority-owned businesses, particularly those in poor or urban areas, have been hit hardest by the current economic downturn, so as we look to our recovery, these are the areas we should target for our strongest support.
By expanding the existing 8-A program, we can increase its economic impact, without having to reinvent the wheel. We can rely on a proven initiative to inject new life into disadvantaged areas.
I ask my colleagues to support my amendment, as well as the underlying bill as a whole.
On behalf of small and minority-owned businesses, I ask for their assistance in these troubled times.
Our economic future may be uncertain, but with my proposal and the Small Business Lending Act, we have the rare opportunity to influence that future.
Let's pass these measures, to guarantee some degree of relief for the people who continue to suffer the most. Let's renew our investments in America's small businesses, and rely on them to drive our economic recovery.
Let's do so today. Let's do it now, for tomorrow may be too late.
I yield the floor.
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