By Mr. KERRY (for himself, Mr. ENSIGN, Mr. JEFFORDS, Mr. BINGAMAN, Ms. LANDRIEU, Mr. LEAHY, Mr. MILLER, Mr. CRAIG, and Ms. STABENOW):
S. 1255. A bill to amend the Small Business Act to direct the Administrator of the Small Business Administration to establish a pilot program to provide regulatory compliance assistance to small business concerns, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.
Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I am pleased to join with my distinguished colleague from Nevada, Senator JOHN ENSIGN, and the cosponsors of our legislation in reintroducing the National Small Business Regulatory Assistance Act.
The bill we are reintroducing today is the same Cleland-Kerry legislation that was introduced last Congress, and it is the companion to Congressman SWEENEY's bill, H.R. 205, which bears the same name as our legislation. The Sweeney bill recently passed the House overwhelmingly, 417-4, with the strong support of the House Committee on Small Business, as it did in the 107th. Our Senate version, which is nearly identical to the Sweeney bill, passed the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship last year but was not taken up by the full Senate. Because Senator ENSIGN and I are fully committed to helping small business owners understand and navigate complicated government regulations, we are reintroducing this legislation, the National Small Business Regulatory Assistance Act.
Small businesses, particularly small businesses with very few employees, often face an overwhelming task when seeking advice on how to comply with Federal regulations, especially when implementation varies for different regions of the country, or from state to state. Many small businesses fail to comply with important and needed labor and environmental regulations not because they want to break the law, but because they are unaware of the actions they need to take to comply. Often, small businesses are afraid to seek guidance from Federal agencies for fear of exposing problems at their businesses.
One important way to help small businesses comply with Federal regulations is to provide them with free, confidential advice outside of the normal relationship between a small business and a regulatory agency. The Small Business Administration's, SBA, Small Business Development Centers, SBDCs, are in a unique position to provide this type of assistance.
Our bill establishes a pilot program to award competitive grants to 20 selected SBDCs, two from each SBA region, which would allow these SBDCs to provide regulatory compliance assistance to small businesses. The SBA would be authorized to award grants between $150,000 and $300,000, depending on the population of the SBDC's state.
Under our legislation, the SBDCs would need to form partnerships with Federal compliance programs, conduct educational and training activities and offer free-of-charge compliance counseling to small business owners. Further, the measure would guarantee privacy to those who receive compliance assistance, which is integral to the reaching out to as many small businesses as possible. This privacy provision has also been extended to all small businesses that seek any assistance from their local SBDC.
The legislation we are reintroducing today uses only SBA funds and will serve to complement current small business development assistance as well as existing compliance assistance programs. Versions of this legislation introduced in previous Congresses used Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, enforcement funds to pay for these grants.
Small businesses can succeed when it comes to complying with Federal regulations, if provided with the necessary tools and information. The National Small Business Regulatory Assistance Act will go a long way toward assisting our Nation's small businesses that want to comply with Federal regulations.
I am pleased to say that we have the full support of the Association of Small Business Development Centers, which has been working closely with us since January of last year to draft the Senate version of this legislation, as well as support from National Small Business United, the American Industrial Hygiene Association, and Congressman SWEENEY.
I want to express my sincere thanks to Senator ENSIGN for his hard work and continued support on this issue. I urge all of my colleagues to support this legislation.