The Department of Labor announced at the close of 2009 that the national unemployment rate remained at 10 percent. This is a stark reminder that millions of American families continue to struggle in this troubled economy. With unemployment rates still in the double digits, Congress passed a two month extension of federal unemployment benefits. However, this action alone is not enough to compensate for the absence of American jobs. As individuals look for work and our nation's employers seek to grow their businesses, Congress should be doing more to help our nation's job creators. We should be pushing for results-oriented job training programs that will meet the needs of changing labor markets and help grow our way out of this uncertain economy. Work training and education programs are critical to putting Americans back to work and creating jobs.
Small businesses have always been the backbone of our economy and played a traditional role as a catalyst for new jobs and economic recovery.As the Ranking Member of the Science and Technology Committee, I was pleased to help promote Small Business through passage of key legislation. On May 12, 2009, H.R. 2352, the Job Creation Through Entrepreneurship Act of 2009 was introduced to aggressively expand entrepreneurial development (ED) programs at the Small Business Administration (SBA), giving small businesses additional resources to thrive and create jobs. H.R. 2352 passed the House on May 20, 2009 by a vote of 406-15. This legislative package marks the first overhaul of the SBA's entrepreneurial development programs in a decade, expanding a portfolio of proven services. Through ED programs, small businesses and prospective entrepreneurs receive technical assistance and training on a range of topics important to running a business. The legislation also creates new support services for women, veterans and Native American-owned small businesses. Further, the bill establishes a green entrepreneurial development program, providing classes and instruction in starting a business in the fields of energy efficiency and green technology.
On Wednesday, July 8, 2009, H.R. 2965, the Enhancing Small Business Innovation and Research Act passed by a vote of 386 to 41 in the House of Representatives. H.R. 2965 will extend through Fiscal Year 2011, the largest federal small business research and development programs, operated by the Small Business Administration (SBA)--the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR). Established by Congress in 1982, the SBIR program offers competition-based awards to stimulate technology innovation among small firms, while providing government agencies with new, cost-effective, technical and scientific solutions to meet their diverse needs. I believe that reauthorizing and updating the SBIR program is a step in the right direction to help our small businesses struggling to find capital during this economic recession. The SBIR should be designed with open competition, and allow the small business with the best idea to be granted an award.
With the country's and my district's small businesses in mind, I co-sponsored bipartisan legislation known as the Fairness and Transparency in Contracting Act of 2009.Designed to ensure that small business government contracts go to small businesses instead of subsidiaries of large companies, H.R. 2568 is a direct result of more than 15 investigations that exposed widespread abuses in the system. The Small Business Administration Inspector General found in 2002 that at least 4.4 percent of 1,000 contractors awarded federal funds designated for small businesses did not meet basic requirements to receive those contracts. To correct this, H.R. 2568 would modify the definition of a small business in the Small Business Act by including the additional requirement that no publicly traded company can qualify as a small business in relation to these funds. It also allows a person to file a complaint if they have evidence that a small business contract was improperly awarded.
President Obama and Speaker Pelosi promised that their $800 billion stimulus package would grow the economy and create jobs. Instead, small employers are struggling financially and laying off workers. Whether through tightening family budgets, or cutting expenses for small business expansion, the American people are making critical sacrifices during these tough economic times. Democrats and Republicans must come together to bring relief to the American people and to our small businesses. Putting Washington's fiscal house in order will require both parties working together. I will continue to fight for fiscal discipline and am ready and willing to work with the President to get the economy back on track.