Tuesday, December 22, 2009

White House Announces New Cybersecurity Coordinator; Tips for Protecting Yourself Online

Today, the White House announced President Barack Obama’s new White House Cybersecurity Coordinator, Howard A. Schmidt. With some 40 years of experience in government, business and law enforcement, Schmidt brings a unique and deep experience to this important issue.

Following, is the full text of the announcement e-mail sent to the White House e-mail list by John Brennan [pictured], Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism:

* * *

Dear Friend,

Cybersecurity matters to all of us. Protecting the Internet is critical to our national security, public safety, and our personal privacy and civil liberties. It’s also vital to President Obama’s efforts to strengthen our country -- from the modernization of our health care system, to the high-tech job creation central to our economic recovery.

The very e-mail you are reading underscores our dependence on information technologies in this digital age, which is why it seemed like a fitting way to announce that the President has chosen Howard Schmidt to be the White House Cybersecurity Coordinator. Howard will have the important responsibility of orchestrating the many important cybersecurity activities across the government.

Howard is one of the world’s leading authorities on computer security, with some 40 years of experience in government, business and law enforcement. Learn more about Howard's background and approach to cybersecurity here.

Howard will have regular access to the President and serve as a key member of his National Security staff. He will also work closely with his economic team to ensure that our cybersecurity efforts keep the Nation secure and prosperous.

Moving forward we will use WhiteHouse.gov, this e-mail program, and our other communications tools to keep you posted about our progress in this important area.


John O. Brennan
Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism

P.S. You can play an important role in cybersecurity as well. Learn more about the issue and steps you can take to ensure your own security.

* * *

Tips for Protecting Yourself Online
Cybersecurity matters to all of us – and it’s our shared responsibility to mitigate the threats in this space. You can take cybersecurity into your own hands with these tips for protecting yourself online:

* Keep your security software and operating system up-to-date. At a minimum, your computer should have current anti-virus and anti-spyware software and a firewall to protect yourself from hackers and malicious software that can steal sensitive personal information. Hackers also take advantage of Web browsers and operating system software that do not have the latest security updates. Operating-system companies issue security patches for flaws that they find in their systems, so it is important to set your operating system and Web browser software to download and install security patches automatically.

* Protect your personal information online. Millions of people become victims of identity theft each year. One way that cyber criminals convince computer users to divulge their confidential personal information is through fake "phishing" e-mails, which are often cleverly disguised to look like authentic e-mails. Be wary of clicking on links in e-mails that are unfamiliar, and be very cautious about providing personal information online; e.g., your password, financial information, or Social Security number.

* Know who you are dealing with. It is remarkably simple for online scammers to impersonate a legitimate business, so you need to know who you are dealing with. If you are thinking about shopping on an unfamiliar website, do some independent research before you buy. Similarly, before you download software, be sure that the software developer is trustworthy. Cyber criminals will often embed the capability to steal passwords and files into free software.

* Learn what to do if something goes wrong. If your computer gets hacked, the effects may be obvious [e.g., deleted or corrupted files]; or, they may be subtle [e.g., slow computing performance]. As a first step, you should scan your computer with updated anti-virus software. You may wish to get professional assistance through your computer’s manufacturer, computer retail store, or local computer technician. You can also alert the appropriate authorities by contacting your Internet service provider [ISP] or the Internet Crime Complaint Center. The Federal Trade Commission [FTC] can assist if you are subject to identity theft. You can also forward spam or phishing e-mails to the FTC at spam@uce.gov.

SOURCES: FTC, The White House, Wikipedia

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SBA Secures Funding to Extend Recovery Act Loans; Agency Plans to Restart Recovery Loan Approvals by Dec. 28

President Obama signed the U.S. Department of Defense [DOD] appropriations bill on Saturday [Dec. 19], which included $125 million to continue through Feb. 28, 2010 -- the enhancements made possible through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act [ARRA] to SBA’s two largest loan programs. The SBA estimates the additional funding will support $4.5 billion in small-business lending.

New approvals of loans with the higher guarantee and reduced fees made possible by ARRA are expected to begin by Dec. 28. Loan applications from borrowers who chose to be placed in the SBA’s Recovery Loan Queue will be funded first, followed by new loan approvals beginning on or before Dec. 28.

“This Administration and Congress recognize that these key programs were successful in helping jump-start the economic recovery for America’s small businesses,” said SBA Administrator Karen Mills. “The increased guarantee and reduced fees on SBA loans helped put more than $16.5 billion in the hands of small-business owners and brought more than 1,200 lenders back to SBA loan programs. The extension of these programs through February is important to continuing our path toward recovery, and will mean that thousands more small-business owners have access to the credit they need.

“Just two weeks ago, President Obama laid out key aspects of his jobs plan -- including significant ongoing support for small businesses. We will continue to work with Congress on moving those proposals forward -- including extending these loan enhancements as the President has called for, to ensure that small-business owners have the tools they need to drive economic growth and create jobs in communities all across the country.”

As part of ARRA, SBA received $730 million -- which included $375 million to increase the SBA guarantee on 7[a] loans to 90 percent, and to waive borrower fees on most 7[a] and 504 loans. The funds for these programs were exhausted on Nov. 23.

SBA created the Recovery Loan Queue as part of its transition back to pre-ARRA lending on Nov. 23, because previously approved loans are sometimes canceled or never disbursed for a variety of reasons. Eligible small businesses, in consultation with their lender, could choose to be placed in the queue for possible approval of an ARRA loan if funding became available. Currently, there are 1,069 loans totaling almost $530 million in the Recovery Loan Queue.

The extension included in the DOD bill authorizes the higher guarantee levels through Feb. 28, 2010. The fee relief is authorized until this additional funding is exhausted or the end of the fiscal year, whichever comes first. As was the case in November, SBA will transition into a queue system as the funds start to wind down, in order to ensure the maximum simulative effect of the programs and disbursement of funds.

For non-ARRA 7[a] or 504 loans funded during the transition period, this extension does not provide a retroactive guarantee or waived fees. Loans that were funded under non-ARRA terms cannot be canceled and resubmitted to take advantage of the ARRA extension provisions.

This extension does not affect other SBA ARRA programs -- including the America’s Recovery Capital [ARC] Loan Program, or the agency’s microloans. ARRA funding still remains for both of those programs.

SOURCES: Library of Congress, Recovery.gov, U.S. Small Business Administration

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Treasury, SBA Submit Small Business Financing Forum Report to the President

Today, as a follow-up to the Nov. 18 Small Business Financing Forum, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and U.S. Small Business Administration [SBA] issued a report to President Barack Obama, summarizing the policy ideas and recommendations discussed. Last month's forum brought together small-business owners, lenders, regulators and policymakers for an open discussion focused on the best ideas for providing the support that small businesses need to continue to drive economic recovery.

The report is aimed at continuing this important dialogue going forward -- including President Obama's Forum on Jobs and Economic Growth tomorrow, during which SBA Administrator Karen Mills and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner [pictured] will be leading a session, "Paving the Road for Small Business Job Growth."

For more information regarding Recovery Act-related small-business funding policy, check out the following resources:
* Small Business Financing Forum Report to the President
* Small Business and Community Lending Initiatve
* Fact Sheet: Unlocking Credit for Small Businesses
* Q&A for Small Business Owners

SOURCES: FinancialStability.gov, U.S. Department of the Treasury

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Friday, November 20, 2009

As Key Senate Health Care Vote Nears, Landrieu Aims to 'Institute the Right Reforms' to Aid America's Small Businesses, Workers, Families

Today, on the eve of a pivotal U.S. Senate vote to begin the debate on health care reform, Sen. Mary Landrieu [D-La., pictured], chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, pledged her support to do what's right for small businesses, their workers, and families.

"As you may know, this week, the Senate unveiled its healthcare legislation," Landrieu wrote in a letter to small-biz stakeholders across the nation. "This bill will create a system of exchanges that will pool small businesses to spread risk, lower costs, and give owners and employees more predictable, quality health care choices.

"To ensure these exchanges work effectively, the bill contains consumer protections and market reforms -- including prohibiting insurance companies from denying or rescinding coverage based on health status and an individual mandate to obtain coverage rather than an employer mandate to provide coverage.

"While these reforms are a step in the right direction, there is still more work to do. As we continue negotiations to reform our nation’s health care system, I will persist in working to ensure that the concerns of our nation’s 29 million small businesses remain a central focus. Today, it is more important than ever for Congress to work together to institute the right reforms to aid America’s small businesses and families."

To help clarify how the Senate health care bill -- dubbed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act -- affects small businesses, Landrieu's committee has compiled a fact sheet that highlights the bill's key points:

Why Small Businesses Need Reform
* Fewer small businesses offer coverage: Over the last ten years, the percentage of small businesses [i.e., with fewer than 200 employees] offering health benefits has dropped from 56 percent to 46 percent.

* Small businesses are not providing insurance because they cannot afford it: America’s small businesses will spend $156 billion on health coverage this year alone.

* Lack of competition causes small firms to pay more: Big companies with more people to spread risk have lower rates because of a lack of competition, causing small firms to pay 18 percent more.

* More jobs will be lost without the right reforms: In 2018 alone, 178,000 small business jobs will be lost due to the high cost of health care.

* Without the right reforms, small businesses will pay more: By 2018, small businesses are expected to spend nearly $2.4 trillion on health coverage.

How This Bill Helps
* Makes health care more affordable: Improves affordability by instituting exchanges that will provide small businesses with more choices and lower costs.

* Tax credits increase affordability: Provides tax credits to small businesses, to make coverage more affordable and to encourage employees to enter into exchanges.

* Levels the playing field for small businesses: By pooling employees in small firms, the exchange system will make small businesses more equal to their larger competitors.

* Promotes entrepreneurship and creates jobs: Encourages aspiring entrepreneurs to start their own businesses by providing realistic health coverage choices for themselves and employees.

* More quality coverage: Consumer protections and market reforms, like preventing insurers from denying or rescinding coverage based on health status, will ensure that the largest possible pool is participating in the exchanges and help bring down costs.

GoodBiz113's take: The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will reduce the deficit by $127 billion over the next 10 years, and as much as $650 billion in the decade following -- saving hundreds of billions of dollars while extending coverage to 31 million more Americans. We appreciate Sen. Landrieu's leadership and advocacy on this landmark legislation to reform health care, and hope that she and her colleagues pass it by year's end.

SOURCES: Congressional Budget Office, U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship

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Monday, November 09, 2009

Sen. Kerry, Rep. Klein Help Small Businesses Employ Military Reservists

Sen. John Kerry [D-Mass., pictured], a senior member and former chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship, and Congressman Ron Klein [D-Fla.] today announced their introduction of a bill to support small businesses that employ military reservists.

The Small Business and Military Family Assistance Act of 2009 will provide tax incentives for small-business employers who make up the salary difference for their reservist employees while they’re serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. While many large businesses can afford to supplement the lower wages that reservists earn while in active duty, small-business owners struggle to offer the same service.

"Our legislation supports the small businesses that stand by our men and women in uniform when reservists are deployed," said Sen. Kerry. "It keeps our service members employed, and small businesses open for business. In the face of a tough economy, we can do more to support the employers and reservists who make such profound contributions to our economy and national defense."

"One of our most important responsibilities is to stand behind our military service members," Rep. Klein added. "This legislation does exactly that by ensuring that reservists and their families do not see a drop in income when they are called up to active duty.

"Many small businesses voluntarily choose to support our troops by making up the difference between military and civilian pay when one of their employees is called to active duty service. This is the right thing to do, and these businesses should be supported and rewarded with tax incentives. This selfless dedication to our service members proves once again that small businesses are not only the heart of our economy; they are the soul of our communities."

"MOAA strongly supports this employer wage credit extension, as it recognizes the sacrifices American employers endure in supporting their activated Guard and Reserve employees," said Vice Admiral Norb R. Ryan Jr., USN [Ret.], president of the Military Officers Association of America.

Small businesses employ nearly 20 percent of all reservists who hold civilian jobs. Many employers pay their employees who are called up for active duty a salary differential.

For example, if an employee was making $60,000 before being called up and makes $40,000 in the military, the employer will make up the $20,000 difference. Sen. Kerry’s legislation provides small businesses with fewer than 50 employees, a tax credit for 20 percent of the pay differential. The maximum credit is $4,000.

SOURCE: Senator John Kerry

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Democratic Senators, Congresswoman, Small-Business Owners Discuss Impact of Health Insurance Reform on Small Businesses

Yesterday, Democratic Senators Tom Harkin [D-Ia., pictured] and Mary Landrieu [D-La.], and Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson [D-Ill.] joined Mike Draper, a small-business owner from Des Moines, Ia.; Gwendolyn Barnes, a small-business owner from Shreveport, La.; Dr. Ken Brantley, a small-business owner from Richmond, Va.; and other small-business owners from across the country at a press conference to discuss how health insurance reform will benefit small businesses.

Recent studies indicate that small businesses are likely to see their premiums rise 15% in the coming year -- double the rate of last year’s increase. Small businesses employ roughly 40% of the private labor force in America, making it crucial that we work to ensure affordability of health coverage for this central part of the American workforce.

"The status quo in health insurance spending for America’s small businesses is intolerable and it is unsustainable," said Sen. Harkin. "Today, we have a simple message for small-business owners across America: Help is on the way, and it comes in the form of a health reform plan that puts a stop to the discriminatory insurance industry practice of jacking up premiums for small businesses by up to 200 percent when an employee gets sick, or because the business hires a woman.

"Our bill will end the practice of denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions or increasing premiums based on health status, gender, or industry. As I have said many times, the biggest winners in a reformed health system will be small-business owners and their employees."

Sen. Landrieu concurred."Small businesses are suffering from skyrocketing health insurance premiums that are eating into their bottom lines and threatening their survival," she declared. "As we continue to make progress toward comprehensive health care reform, Democrats are working to address the health care needs of small businesses. And while we may not yet completely agree on everything, one thing we can all agree on is that doing nothing is simply not an option."

"Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and right now health care costs are simply too much to bear," said Rep. Halvorson. "If we truly want our small businesses to help lead us out of our current economic troubles, we must act to reform health care. Small-business owners and their employees are depending on it. We must act now."

"We try to be flexible, but it's an expensive way to do it," Draper explained. "Right now, health insurance is a volatile commodity, such as oil -- the price swings, the price increases -- and it takes up a larger portion of a company’s budget. If the government were to provide a more stable option and take the market out of things, it would help settle business’s books; it would help them better predict the future. As a business owner, I wouldn't have to worry about finding policies, knowing what is covered, what isn't covered, and how much the company will end up paying."

"We started off with everybody on a group plan, but as the premiums continued to climb and climb, my employees had to start dropping out, so we switched to individual plans," said Barnes. "But one of my employees was denied for a pre-existing condition. And we've had trouble with the insurance company. When my daughter needed a surgery, they mysteriously took her off the surgery schedule. That's not right. It’s time to fix health care -- for small businesses like mine, and for the communities we serve."

"The lack of affordable health insurance hurts millions of small-business owners like me," Dr. Brantley added. "I would love to hire several highly skilled staff to work with me. This would balance the workload, expand our care, and create more jobs. It is virtually impossible, however, to find qualified applicants who will accept a job offer without health insurance benefits.

"The high cost of health care hurts my ability to create new jobs here in Virginia and retain skilled employees. Without competition and meaningful health care legislation, we will continue to see rising health insurance premiums each year that harm businesses and squeeze families."

GoodBiz113's take: Thankfully, President Barack Obama is committed to working with Congress to pass comprehensive health reform this year in order to control rising health care costs, guarantee choice of doctor, and assure high-quality, affordable health care for all Americans -- including small-business owners and their employees. To learn about President Obama's plan to deliver health care stability and security to all U.S. citizens, go to: http://bit.ly/HealthCareStabilitySecurity.

SOURCES: U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship, White House

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

New Report Highlights Specifics of How Health Insurance Reform Will Reduce Costs for Small Businesses

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius [pictured] today released a new report, "Lower Premiums, Stronger Businesses: How Health Insurance Reform Will Bring Down Costs for Small Businesses." The report outlines the many ways in which health insurance reform will lower health care costs for small businesses, and is available now at HealthReform.gov [http://www.healthreform.gov/].

"Small businesses drive our economy and create jobs, but they are struggling as health care costs continue to rise," Secretary Sebelius said. "The high cost of care is making it difficult or impossible for these businesses to offer care or grow their business. Health insurance reform will bring costs down and give small businesses the relief they need."

The report notes:

* Small businesses, the backbone of job creation in our economy, are disproportionately burdened by the financial strains caused by rising health care costs. On average, small businesses pay up to 18 percent more than large firms for the same health insurance policy. This difference is due, in part, to high broker fees [which can be up to 10 percent of premiums] and health plan administrative costs that are three times those in the large-group market.

* In a recent national survey, nearly three-quarters of small businesses that did not offer benefits cited high premiums as the reason.

* Nearly half of workers covered by a small-business employer have insurance that limits the total amount that the plan will pay for medical care, and nearly one in 10 small-business workers have a health plan that does not offer prescription drug coverage.

* Workers in small firms are more likely to shoulder burdensome out-of-pocket health care costs. Thirty-six percent spent more than 10 percent of their household income on out-of-pocket medical expenses in 2007, compared with 27 percent of workers in larger firms.

Health insurance reform will bring down costs for small businesses by creating a health insurance exchange; providing a small-business tax credit; ending the "hidden tax" on small businesses that provide health insurance; and preventing arbitrary premium hikes. Reform will also ensure that Americans have stable, secure insurance coverage, limit out-of-pocket spending, and eliminate caps on benefits.

To learn more about how health insurance reform will benefit small businesses and read the complete report, visit http://bit.ly/LowPremiumsStrongBiz.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

President Obama: Small Business Must Be at Forefront of the Recovery

In this week’s address, President Barack Obama spoke of how important small businesses are to the economy and described the steps his administration is taking to support them.

Health insurance reform will allow small businesses to purchase insurance for their employees through exchanges -- which will increase the quality of coverage while lowering the costs -- and reform will provide tax credits to those businesses.

To free up credit, the President called on Congress to increase the size of various SBA loans, and he announced that the administration will be making more credit available to the small local and community banks that many small businesses depend on.

Following, are President Obama's remarks:

* * *

All across America -- even today, on a Saturday -- millions of Americans are hard at work. They're running the mom-and-pop stores and neighborhood restaurants we know and love. They're building tiny startups with big ideas that could revolutionize an industry -- maybe even transform our economy. They are the more than half of all Americans who work at a small business, or own a small business. And they embody the spirit of possibility, the relentless work ethic, and the hope for something better that is at the heart of the American Dream.

They also represent a segment of our economy that has been hard-hit by this recession. Over the past couple of years, small businesses have lost hundreds of thousands of jobs. Many have struggled to get the loans they need to finance their inventories and make payroll. Many entrepreneurs can’t get financing to start a small business in the first place. And many more are discouraged from even trying because of the crushing costs of health care -- costs that have forced too many small businesses to cut benefits, shed jobs, or shut their doors for good.

Small businesses have always been the engine of our economy -- creating 65 percent of all new jobs over the past decade and-a-half -- and they must be at the forefront of our recovery. That’s why the Recovery Act was designed to help small businesses expand and create jobs. It’s provided $5 billion worth of tax relief, as well as temporarily reducing or eliminating fees on SBA loans and guaranteeing some of these loans up to 90 percent, which has supported nearly $13 billion in new lending to more than 33,000 businesses.

In addition, our health reform plan will allow small businesses to buy insurance for their employees through an insurance exchange, which may offer better coverage at lower costs -- and we’ll provide tax credits for those that choose to do so.

And this past week, I called on Congress to increase the maximum size of various SBA loans, so that more small-business owners can set up shop and grow their operations.

I also announced that we’ll be taking additional steps through our Financial Stability Plan to make more credit available to the small local and community banks that so many small businesses depend on -- the banks who know their borrowers, who gave them their first loan and watched them grow. The goal here is to get credit where it’s needed most -- to businesses that support families, sustain communities, and create the jobs that power our economy.

That’s why we enacted the Financial Stability Plan in the first place, back when many of our largest banks were on the verge of collapse. Our credit markets were frozen, and it was nearly impossible for ordinary people to get loans to buy a car or home or pay for college. The idea was to jump-start lending and keep our economy from spiraling into a depression.

Fortunately, it worked. Thanks to the American taxpayers, we’ve now achieved the stability we need to get our economy moving forward again.

But, while credit may be more available for large businesses, too many small-business owners are still struggling to get the credit they need. These are the very taxpayers who stood by America’s banks in a crisis.

And now it’s time for our banks to stand by creditworthy small businesses, and make the loans they need to open their doors, grow their operations, and create new jobs. It’s time for those banks to fulfill their responsibility to help ensure a wider recovery, a more secure system, and more broadly shared prosperity.

And we’re going to take every appropriate step to encourage them to meet those responsibilities. Because if it’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that here in America, we rise and fall together. Our economy, as a whole, can’t move ahead if small businesses and the middle class continue to fall behind.

This country was built by dreamers. They’re the workers who took a chance on their desire to be their own boss. The part-time inventors who became the full-time entrepreneurs. The men and women who have helped build the American middle class, keeping alive that most American of ideals – that all things are possible for all people, and we’re limited only by the size of our dreams and our willingness to work for them.

We need to do everything we can to ensure that they can keep taking those risks, acting on those dreams, and building the enterprises that fuel our economy and make us who we are.


* * *

The full video of President Obama's weekly address can be viewed online at: http://bit.ly/ObamaSmallBizRecovery

SOURCE: The White House

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

President Obama Announces New Small-Business Lending Initiatives

This afternoon, President Barack Obama [pictured above with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and SBA Administrator Karen Mills], announced his proposal to boost lending support of small businesses, so as to promote even further business expansion and job creation.

Speaking from Metropolitan Archives, a small records-storage business based in Landover, Md., President Obama reflected on the heretofore impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009; outlined specifics of his proposed lending initiatives; and provided a sneak preview of a small-biz-focused conference that Geithner and Mills will convene in the near future.

"Over the past decade and a half, America's small businesses have created 65 percent of all new jobs in the country," Obama noted. "And more than half of all Americans working in the private sector are either employed by a small business or own one -- more than half. These companies are the engine of job growth in America. They fuel our prosperity. And that's why they have to be at the forefront of our recovery.

"The problem is, our small businesses have been some of the hardest hit by this recession. From the middle of 2007 through the end of 2008, small businesses lost 2.4 million jobs. And, because banks shrunk from lending in the midst of the financial crisis, it's been difficult for entrepreneurs to take out the loans they need to start a business. For those who do own a small business, it's been difficult to finance inventories and make payroll, or expand if things are going well.

"And that's why we made sure the Recovery Act focused on helping small businesses expand and create jobs. In it, we temporarily reduced or eliminated fees on SBA loans -- loans that give small businesses more money to reinvest in their own futures. And we guaranteed some of these loans by up to 90 percent, which has given local banks and credit unions the confidence they need to lend.

"In the last eight months, these steps have made a real difference for small businesses across America. So far, the Recovery Act has supported over 33,000 loans to small businesses that have already helped save or create nearly tens of thousands of jobs -- nearly $13 billion in new lending -- $13 billion. And more than 1,200 banks and credit unions that had stopped issuing SBA loans when the financial crisis hit are lending again today. And more than $4.3 billion in federal contracts are now going to small businesses.

"We're also providing tax relief to small businesses under the Recovery Act -- relief that will give these businesses back over $5 billion this year. And we're giving tax cuts directly to 95 percent of working Americans, which includes the vast majority of small-business owners and their employees.

"So there's no question that our Recovery Act has given a boost to every American who works at a small business, or owns one, or aspires to own one. There's no question that the steps we've taken have improved the overall climate for small business across the country.

"But there's also no question that we've got a long way to go. There's still too little credit flowing to our small businesses. There's still too many entrepreneurs who can't get the loans they need to open up their doors and start hiring. There's still too many who are struggling to make payroll and to stay open. And there's still too many successful small businesses that want to expand further and hire more but just don't have the capital to do it."

Specifically, President Obama called for:

* Increasing the size of SBA’s 7[a] loan from $2 million to $5 million;

* Increasing the size of SBA’s 504 loan from $2 million to $5 million for standard borrowers [supporting a total project of $12.5 million], and from $4 million to $5.5 million for manufacturers [supporting a total project of $13.75 million]; and

* Increasing the size of SBA’s Microloan from $35,000 to $50,000.

"Finally," President Obama added, "I've asked Tim Geithner and Karen Mills to convene a conference in the coming weeks that will bring together regulators, congressional leaders, lenders and small businesses to determine what additional steps we can take to get credit flowing to small businesses that want to expand and create more jobs.

"Of all the steps we're taking to move this economy from recession to recovery, I continue to believe that the success of our small businesses will be a foundation upon which our future prosperity is built. So we will continue to do whatever we can to help these businesses grow and thrive. And I'm confident that the steps we announced today will do that for small-business owners across the country -- men and women we hear from every day."

Administrator Mills Comments on President Obama’s Proposal to Raise SBA Loan Limits
Following President Obama's announcement to raise the maximum loan size for SBA-backed loans to small business, SBA Administrator Mills issued the following statement:

"America’s 29 million small businesses have been hard-hit in this recession. Nine months ago, President Obama sent small businesses a lifeline: the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Since then, the SBA has supported more than 33,000 loans for a total of almost $13 billion in small-business lending. This has helped save or create tens of thousands of jobs.

"But there is much more work to be done, which is why President Obama today pledged his support for legislation that would increase the maximum size of some SBA loans. Increasing maximum loan sizes will allow the SBA to ensure that more small-business owners and entrepreneurs can get access to the credit they need to expand their operations and create jobs.

"The President also announced additional support from the Treasury Department for smaller community lenders that are committed to increasing their lending to small businesses. Secretary Geithner and I will host a conference on small-business lending with members of Congress, regulators, lenders and the small-business community. The conference will discuss additional efforts that can be taken to provide small businesses with access to credit. These steps, coupled with SBA’s ongoing efforts, will help small businesses grow and create jobs throughout America."

Rep. Velázquez Applauds, Looks Forward to "Swiftly Moving" Small-Business Lending Legislation
Shortly after President Obama's speech, Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez [D-NY], chairwoman of the U.S. House Committee on Small Business, commented on the Administration's plan for helping small businesses access credit:

"I applaud the President for reaffirming his support for our nation's small businesses and recognizing their importance to the economic recovery. With the Administration's March announcement, and again today, the President has made clear that he is committed to getting entrepreneurs the help that they need. As the Administration refines the details of this plan, I am sure they will closely consult lenders, the small-business community and Congress, and I look forward to participating in that dialogue.

"In working to increase access to capital, it is important to pursue policies that will open doors for, and enhance the opportunities, of small firms. Duplicating existing programs or instilling initiatives that only benefit the lenders does nothing to help grow our economy.

"The ultimate goal is to get affordable capital into the hands of small businesses. That is why the Committee today approved bipartisan legislation to comprehensively modernize the SBA's capital-access initiatives. This bill is expected to support $44 billion in small-business lending every year, helping to save or create 1.3 million jobs annually. I look forward to swiftly moving this legislation through the House and working with my colleagues to get this bill to the President for his signature."

To view the video of President Obama's speech, go to: http://bit.ly/ObamaVideoSmallBiz

The full text of President Obama's remarks can be found here: http://bit.ly/ObamaRemarksSmallBiz

A fact sheet on President Obama's proposal to increase SBA loan size can be found at: http://bit.ly/ObamaFactsSmallBiz

A fact sheet on FinancialStability.gov's Small Business and Community Lending Initiative, titled "Unlocking Credit for Small Businesses," is available at: http://bit.ly/FinancialStabilitySmallBiz

To track Recovery Act-related developments, go to: http://www.recovery.gov/

For information about federal contracting opportunities, go to: http://www.fedbizopps.gov/

SOURCES: U.S. Department of the Treasury, U.S. House Committee on Small Business, U.S. Small Business Administration, White House [photo by Pete Souza]

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sebelius, Mills Release New Report, 'Insurance at Risk: Small Business Employees Risk Losing Coverage'

Secretary of Health and Human Services [HHS] Kathleen Sebelius [pictured] and Small Business Administration [SBA] Administrator Karen Mills today released a new report, "Insurance at Risk: Small Business Employees Risk Losing Coverage."

The report examines the health-care status quo that has left employees at risk of losing their insurance, and underscores the financial difficulties small businesses face when providing health insurance to their employees. The complete report, along with a list of sources cited, is available now at http://bit.ly/HealthReformSmallBiz.

"More Americans who work for a small business have lost their health insurance coverage, and those who still have coverage have seen their costs go up," said Sebelius. "Health insurance reform will drive costs down and make it easier for small-business owners to give their employees the quality coverage they need."

"The cost of health insurance is the No. 1 concern of small-business owners," Mills noted. "On average, small businesses pay 18 percent more than big businesses for the same health insurance policy. This has left small-business owners in an untenable situation, having to choose between their employees -- who are often like family to them -- and the bottom line. Health care reform will provide small-business owners with greater access to the affordable, quality coverage they want and need for themselves and their employees."

The new report notes:

* Employees of small businesses are 50 percent more likely to lose coverage as workers at large businesses. Half of workers in small firms that do not offer health benefits remain uninsured.

* Premiums for employer-based health insurance have more than doubled since 2000, rising three times faster than wages. As a result, fewer small businesses provide coverage for their employees. In 2000, 57 percent of firms employing fewer than 10 workers provided coverage. In 2009, only 46 percent of similar-sized firms provided coverage.

* In one national survey, nearly three-quarters of small businesses that did not offer benefits cited high premiums as the reason; and, on average, small businesses pay up to 18 percent more than large firms for the same health insurance policy. This is due, in part, to high broker fees [which can be up to 10 percent of premiums] and health plan administrative costs that are three to four times those in the large-group market.

Health insurance reform will stabilize health insurance coverage for Americans who work for small businesses, and provide small businesses with tax credits to help them provide health insurance for their employees. This will make health care more affordable for small businesses and their workers, solidifying and strengthening employer-based coverage for years to come.

Health insurance reform will also create a health insurance exchange, so that Americans without access to affordable insurance on the job can compare prices and health plans, and decide which quality affordable option is right for them. The exchange will also significantly reduce administrative costs for small businesses by enabling them to easily and simply compare the prices, benefits, and performance of health plans.

To learn how the current system has failed millions of Americans, and what President Obama’s Administration is doing to work with Congress to enact comprehensive health reform this year, check out these Web-based resources:

* Online Series on Health Reform: http://bit.ly/HealthReformOnline

* White House Reports on Health Reform: http://bit.ly/WhiteHouseHealthReform

* Health Insurance Reform Reality Check: http://www.whitehouse.gov/realitycheck/

* Video: "Reform Will Benefit Small Business -- Not Burden It": http://bit.ly/RealityCheckSmallBiz

* How Health Insurance Reform Will Help Small Business: http://bit.ly/HealthReformHelpSmallBiz

* Council of Economic Advisers Report, "The Economic Effects of Health Care Reform on Small Businesses and Their Employees": http://bit.ly/EconomicEffectsSmallBiz

SOURCES: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Small Business Administration, White House

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

FTC Publishes Final Guides Governing Endorsements, Testimonials; Changes Affect Bloggers, Testimonial Advertisements, Celebrity Endorsements

Yesterday, the Federal Trade Commission announced that it has approved final revisions to the guidance it gives to advertisers on how to keep their endorsement and testimonial ads in line with the FTC Act.

The main thrust of the 81-page document, "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising" occurs in a statement on page 75, which reads: "When there exists a connection between the endorser and the seller of the advertised product that might materially affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement [i.e., the connection is not reasonably expected by the audience], such connection must be fully disclosed."

The notice incorporates several changes to the FTC’s "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising," which address endorsements by bloggers, consumers, experts, organizations, and celebrities, as well as the disclosure of important connections between advertisers and endorsers. The Guides, which become effective on Dec. 1, 2009, were last updated in 1980.

Under the revised Guides, advertisements that feature a consumer and convey his or her experience with a product or service as typical, when that is not the case, will be required to clearly disclose the results that consumers can generally expect. In contrast to the 1980 version of the Guides -- which allowed advertisers to describe unusual results in a testimonial, as long as they included a disclaimer such as "results not typical" -- the revised Guides no longer contain this safe harbor.

The revised Guides also add new examples to illustrate the longstanding principle that "material connections" [sometimes payments or free products] between advertisers and endorsers -- connections that consumers would not expect -- must be disclosed. These examples address what constitutes an endorsement when the message is conveyed by bloggers or other "word-of-mouth" marketers.

The revised Guides specify that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.

Likewise, if a company refers in an advertisement to the findings of a research organization that conducted research sponsored by the company, the advertisement must disclose the connection between the advertiser and the research organization. And a paid endorsement -- like any other advertisement -- is deceptive if it makes false or misleading claims.

Celebrity endorsers also are addressed in the revised Guides. While the 1980 Guides did not explicitly state that endorsers, as well as advertisers, could be liable under the FTC Act for statements they make in an endorsement, the revised Guides reflect Commission case law and clearly state that both advertisers and endorsers may be liable for false or unsubstantiated claims made in an endorsement -- or for failure to disclose material connections between the advertiser and endorsers. The revised Guides also make it clear that celebrities have a duty to disclose their relationships with advertisers when making endorsements outside the context of traditional ads, such as on talk shows or in social media.

The Guides are administrative interpretations of the law, intended to help advertisers comply with the Federal Trade Commission Act; they are not binding law themselves. In any law enforcement action challenging the allegedly deceptive use of testimonials or endorsements, the Commission would have the burden of proving that the challenged conduct violates the FTC Act.

The Commission vote approving issuance of the Federal Register notice detailing the changes was 4-0. The notice will be published in the Federal Register shortly, and is available now on the FTC’s website as a link to this press release. Copies also are available from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20580.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices, and to provide information to help spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP [1-877-382-4357]. The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,700 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.

SOURCE: Federal Trade Commission

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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Help Support Breast Cancer Awareness; Be a Part of the World Pink Mosaic

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Join the Estée Lauder Companies' 2009 Breast Cancer Awareness campaign by spreading the word about the World Pink Mosaic -- an online photo mosaic of breast cancer survivors and supporters, all united in their support for breast health and the desire for a world without breast cancer. One pink movement, thousands of stories.

* Users can take part by visiting any participating Estée Lauder brand sites during the month of October.

* Submissions will become part of a virtual tapestry that will take the shape of a giant Pink Ribbon.

* Individuals can then share their participation with friends and family by posting it to their social networking profiles, sending a link to Twitter, or e-mailing it anywhere in the world.

Upload your photo today to the World Pink Mosaic and support World Pink. A World Without Breast Cancer™.

==> http://budurl.com/WorldPinkMosaic

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GoodBiz113 ad partner Origins is donating $35,000 from the sales of Peace of Mind™ sold in North America to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Your purchase will help support research dedicated to preventing breast cancer and finding a cure in our lifetime.

==> http://budurl.com/EveryPeaceCounts

SOURCE: Origins Natural Resources Inc.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Minnesota-Based Marvin Windows and Doors Has Lessons for All Businesses

Yesterday, the Star Tribune published a timely story about Marvin Windows and Doors, a Minnesota-based, privately owned business that has prospered since 1912 by treating its stakeholders well and by generously giving back to the communities in which it operates -- in good economic times and otherwise.

Sue Marvin, president, and part of the third generation now running the company, divulged the company's design for success: "If you take care of your customers and you take care of your employees, your shareholders will be just fine."

Owners and managers of businesses large and small could learn a thing or two from this near-century-old enterprise that thrives well beyond the bottom line. Invest a few minutes to read the story: http://budurl.com/MarvinWindows.

* * *

On that note... Here's some recommended reading for current and would-be entrepreneurs and business leaders: "In Pursuit of the Common Good: Twenty-Five Years of Improving the World, One Bottle of Salad Dressing at a Time," co-authored by the late Paul Newman and A.E. Hotchner, founders of Newman's Own -- the first green food company to use all-natural ingredients, and still the most successful.

By "shamelessly exploiting" opportunities -- and, yes, well-deserved global celebrity -- Paul Newman and Newman's Own Foundation have contributed more than $280 million to thousands of charities worldwide.

Enjoy this informative, fun and inspiring read!

SOURCES: Marvin Windows and Doors [photo], Star Tribune

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Elance Releases September 2009 Work Index

Elance just published its September Elance Work Index, which ranks the hottest skills in demand on the Web today. In September, PHP, graphic design, Flash and article writing are among the fastest-growing skills in demand.

Here's a complete list of Elance's Top 10 skills in September 2009:

1. PHP
2. Graphic Design
3. Adobe Flash
4. Article Writing
5. MySQL
7. CSS
8. Microsoft Office Excel
9. Content Writing
10. WordPress

==> http://budurl.com/SeptemberElanceIndex

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Privately held and headquartered in Mountain View, Cal., Elance delivers an immediate, cost-effective and flexible way to hire, manage and pay independent professionals and contractors online. Companies tap into Elance’s skilled talent pool to distribute their work, while professionals use Elance to meet clients, stay independent, and get paid for delivering great results.

To read testimonials from diverse clients and businesses -- e.g., entrepreneurs, marketing agencies, IT consultants & developers, professional services firms, non-profit organizations, Web development firms -- using Elance, go to:

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Discover more about how Elance works:

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SOURCE: Elance Inc.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

SBA, Homeland Security Issue Small-Biz Prep Guide for H1N1 Flu

Yesterday, Small Business Administration [SBA] Administrator Karen Mills and Department of Homeland Security [DHS] Secretary Janet Napolitano [pictured] announced the availability of a preparedness guide designed to assist small businesses in planning for the possibility of an H1N1 flu outbreak this fall.

During a call with reporters, Mills made clear the importance of flu preparedness for small businesses. "Small-business owners should take the time to create a plan, talk with their employees, and make sure they are prepared for flu season," she said. "For countless small businesses, having even one or two employees out for a few days has the potential to negatively impact operations and their bottom line. A thoughtful plan will help keep employees and their families healthy, as well as protect small businesses and local economies."

Outbreaks of H1N1 flu are occurring now across the country, and will likely coincide with the return of seasonal flu this fall and winter. The preparedness guide offers small-business employers tools and information to help them plan for and respond flexibly to varying levels of severity of an H1N1 outbreak -- which may lead to increased absenteeism and, if the outbreak becomes more severe, may include restricted service capabilities and supply-chain disruptions.

Employers are encouraged to put strategies in place now to protect their employees and their businesses in advance of the fall flu season. Included in the preparedness guide are tips on how to write a continuity of operations plan, steps for keeping employees healthy, frequently asked questions about the 2009 H1N1 flu, plus a list of additional resources that employers can access online.

To download the 10-page preparedness guide [pdf], please visit http://www.sba.gov/flu.

SOURCE: U.S. Small Business Administration

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Verbatim: President Obama Clarifies How Health Insurance Reform Plan Will Benefit All Americans

Last evening, President Barack Obama told a joint session of Congress and the American people just how he wants to bring peace of mind to U.S. citizens who have health insurance, and affordable coverage to those who don't. He clearly articulated the three key points of his comprehensive health insurance reform plan:

1] It will provide more security and stability to those who have health insurance.

2] It will provide insurance to those who don't.

3] And it will lower the cost of health care for our families, our businesses, and our government.

After President Obama declared, "The time for bickering is over... Now is the time to deliver," countless people of all political stripes and backgrounds immediately weighed in on the President's plan. Here's a select sampling of how some people -- e.g., medical professionals, politicos, pundits -- think his health insurance reform plan will serve America's individuals, households and small businesses...

"I think it was a very good speech. [Obama] made it quite clear this is a very important priority for him and the American people. He also made it quite clear that he is going to 'call out' those who make false statements and use scare techniques...

"I think he was clear that he wants individual mandates, employer mandates/pay or play, critical insurance reforms including guaranteed issue [of insurance], no pre-existing condition exclusion, [and] some type of meaningful public plan, ... but [he] didn't seem committed to that solution. These are all good." -- Dr. Patty Gabow, M.D., CEO, Denver Health [Denver Business Journal, 09/09/2009]

* * *

"I think they go back to committee, they find out what the Senate [Finance] Committee is going to report, then they hammer a bill out.

"I think this is a president that's under no illusion that he's going to get a lot of Republican support. He may get one Republican senator, if he's lucky, but I think that he's hoping that this talk of fiscal responsibility is going to keep some of those moderate, conservative Democrats with him in the House. He took something from Hillary Clinton, he took something from medical malpractice from the Republicans -- to the disdain of lots of liberal Democrats. So there was something in there for everybody." -- Gloria Borger, CNN senior political analyst [CNN.com, 09/09/2009]

* * *

"Over the last month, we’ve watched the debate over health insurance reform get off track, thanks to special interests that benefit from the broken insurance system we have now. In his speech today, President Obama dispelled the myths and misunderstandings that have been swirling around this issue. And he brought back into focus how important it is to all Americans that we reform our broken health insurance system...

"We’ve entered a new phase of the debate marked by this historic speech. My colleagues and I are more determined than ever to put the best ideas -- from Democrats and Republicans -- on the table, so we can pass a meaningful health insurance reform bill that lowers costs and improves coverage for Coloradans and all Americans. The time to act is now." -- U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Col. [Denver Business Journal, 09/09/2009]

* * *

"Democracy Corps, a nonprofit liberal group, was doing some focus groups tonight with dials, and I was checking in with them as they were doing those. Obviously, most of what [Obama] said was way up with Democrats. And that matters because, ultimately, this is in the hands of the Democrats.

"But he scored very well with independents, as well. And it is those Blue Dog Democrats who care about fiscal issues that he was really speaking to -- both at home and in the hall. And when he said the Bush tax cut, the war in Iraq, and the prescription drug plan exploded the deficit, he was talking to them -- because a lot of them voted for that. So he's going to be able to take them behind a closed door now and say, 'Hey, bud. You jacked up the deficit under the last president. You gotta help me now.' And I think that's going to be a powerful argument behind closed doors. He said it very politely in public tonight." -- Paul Begala, Democratic strategist [CNN.com, 09/09/2009]

* * *

"Tonight, President Obama reminded us of exactly what is at stake in the health care debate, and of why we owe it to the American people to enact reform that makes a meaningful departure from a status quo that isn’t working for families and small businesses." -- U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Col. [Denver Business Journal, 09/09/2009]

* * *

"My sense is he very much endorsed the [Sen. Max] Baucus plan tonight -- the moderate Democratic plan. He had very little to nothing about taxation in here... He didn't come out four-square for the public option. I think this is very much what they're trying to build in the Senate side.

"My sense of the speech is whether it reversed the tide, which I think was the real test. Had he given this speech three months ago, when there was a glow about his presidency, I think he could have swept the country. It was a very well-crafted speech. But now, given everything that's happened, millions of Americans that voted for him will say tonight: 'We saw the Obama we elected.' They will be really excited by this speech. But for a lot of others, I don't think it moved them very much. I'm not sure it will heal the divide. Maybe it will move some of the independents, like Paul [Begala] said. But we're so dug in, I'm not sure it ultimately moved the people he needed to move to reverse the tide." -- David Gergen, senior political analyst [CNN.com, 09/09/2009]

* * *

"I agree with the president that consumers do better when there is choice and competition. The best way to achieve this is by offering a strong public option that will not only bring down rising costs, but will also ensure competition and transparency among private companies within the insurance exchange. No one will be forced into the public option, but they will have that choice as an affordable alternative." -- U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver [Denver Business Journal, 09/09/2009]

* * *

"I think he clearly laid out his objectives. This was his goal. There are two lines here I want to repeat: 'While there remain some significant details to be ironed out...' That's what was missing tonight. The other thing, to the point about the Medicare, he talks about how to reduce the waste and inefficiency in Medicaid and Medicare to pay for most of his plan. And the proposal will cost $900 billion... I think he did not quiet the little anguish that'll go on among those senior citizens.

"Now, the key thing here is he laid out his goals. He laid out his objectives. The details will come from Congress. There's a lot in this thing that could be challenged tonight." -- Ed Rollins, Republican strategist [09/09/2009]

* * *

"Skyrocketing health care costs are breaking the budgets of hard-working families, small businesses and states. Too many Coloradans are one illness away from bankruptcy. President Obama is right: the status quo is unacceptable. Fixing our economy requires responsible, moderate reform that will provide security and stability for those who have health care and access to affordable insurance for those who do not." -- Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, a Democrat [Denver Business Journal, 09/09/2009]

* * *

"Overall, we support his call for health care reform. I think he showed good leadership on the issue. I think he did a good job on calling on both parties to pass meaningful reform." -- Jeff Korsmo, executive director, Mayo Clinic Health Policy Center [Post-Bulletin, 09/10/2009]

* * *

"It was very clear that [the president] wasn’t just talking to the people in that chamber; he was talking to the people of this country. What I liked about the speech is it really put a blueprint out there for what needs to be done, and he dispelled a lot of the myths surrounding the debate." -- U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. [Post-Bulletin, 09/10/2009]

* * *

"I've talked to thousands of Minnesotans as I traveled the state during August, and no matter which end of the political spectrum they're on, people want real reform. I think we heard the same message from the president tonight that I have heard from my constituents: Now is the time to fix our broken health insurance system to lower costs, improve quality, and ensure choice of health plans." -- U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn. [Post-Bulletin, 09/10/2009]

* * *

"I'm pleased that the president came out tonight and told Americans the three basic goals his plan meets, how it meets those goals, and what it will mean to them. Time is of the essence -- Americans have waited decades and they can wait no longer for reform. The cost is too high for our families, our businesses, our health care providers and our communities to bear any longer." -- U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn. [Post-Bulletin, 09/10/2009]

The public is invited to attend a rally on health insurance reform with President Obama this Saturday, Sept. 12, at Target Center in downtown Minneapolis. The event is free and open to the public. Space is available on a first-come, first-serve basis. No ticket is required. Doors open at 9:30 a.m.; program begins at 12:30 p.m.

To read the full text of President Obama's remarks to Congress, go to: http://budurl.com/SupportHealthReform.

In May 2009, shortly after he was told that his illness was terminal, the late Sen. Ted Kennedy [D-Mass.] -- who devoted his 37-year career in the U.S. Senate to championing health care for all -- wrote a letter to President Obama and asked that it be delivered upon his death. To read that letter, referenced during Obama's speech to Congress, go to: http://budurl.com/KennedyLetter.

To read President Obama's full plan for health insurance reform, go to: http://budurl.com/HealthReformPlanFull.

To download a concise, printable version of President Obama's plan [PDF], go to: http://budurl.com/HealthReformPlanPDF.

To learn about HealthierUS, a new national initiative to improve people's lives, prevent and reduce the costs of disease, and promote community health and wellness, go to: http://www.healthierus.gov/.

Want to know exactly how health insurance reform will benefit you? Take the "What's in Reform for You?" quiz: http://budurl.com/RealityCheckQuiz

For information and updates regarding health insurance reform, click on these sources:
* AARP: Myths vs. Facts About Health Care Reform
* American Cancer Society: Access to Health Care
* American Medical Association
* American Nurses Association
* Americans for Stable Quality Care
* CNN.com: Health Care in America
* Doctors for America
* FactCheck.org
* FactsAboutReform.org
* Families USA
* Federation of American Hospitals
* Health Care for America Now!
* Health Insurance Reform and Medicare
* Health Insurance Reform Reality Check
* HealthActionNow.org
* HealthReform.gov
* Kaiser Family Foundation
* Main Street Alliance
* NOW on PBS/Health Care Reform
* Setting the Record Straight
* Urban Institute's Health Policy Center

SOURCES: CNN.com, Denver Business Journal, Post-Bulletin, The White House [photo by Pete Souza]

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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

SBA Offers Free Online Course on Winning Federal Contracts

The U.S. Small Business Administration [SBA] just launched a new online training course to help strengthen access to contracting opportunities for small businesses -- including those owned by women, minorities, disadvantaged individuals and veterans.

The free training program, "Recovery Act Opportunities: How to Win Federal Contracts," is part of a federal government-wide initiative announced last month by President Obama, and being led by SBA and the U.S. Department of Commerce.

"Government contracts can play a key role in helping small businesses turn the corner, in terms of expansion and job creation," said SBA Administrator Karen G. Mills [pictured]. "But make no mistake, the benefits the government receives are equally as impressive. Working with small businesses allows the federal government to work with some of the most innovative companies in America -- often with direct contact to the CEO.

"The SBA online training course can help businesses access the federal purchasing system, and position themselves to compete for the commercial opportunities offered by government contracting."

In announcing the government-wide initiative, President Obama reiterated his Administration’s commitment to providing "our Nation’s small businesses with maximum practicable opportunity to participate in federal government contracting."

As part of the initiative, federal agency procurement officers are participating in more than 200 events over the next several weeks to help connect small businesses with contracting opportunities. Additionally, SBA and Commerce are expanding their outreach to contracting officials across the federal government, to ensure they have the tools to meet their annual contracting goals and increase opportunities to small businesses -- including those owned by veterans, women and minorities, as well as those enterprises located in designated HUBZones.

As part of the outreach to small businesses, the comprehensive online course uses both audio and script to provide information about the federal marketplace, contract rules and, most importantly, how to sell to the government and where to find contract and Recovery Act-related opportunities.

The new training portal is a free online training course designed to assist entrepreneurs during this period of economic recovery. This self-paced instructional guide provides an overview of the federal procurement process.

The "Recovery Act Opportunities" course is available on SBA’s website: http://www.sba.gov/fedcontractingtraining. It's indexed by subject matter to allow ease of use, and includes multiple direct links that highlight the best contracting resources.

The course also includes practical and fundamental steps to engage small-business owners in the federal contracting process. It is one of more than 24 online tutorials offered by the SBA, and is available 24/7.

For more information, please visit SBA's website: http://www.sba.gov/.

SOURCES: U.S. Small Business Administration, The White House

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

SBA Administrator Mills Encourages Americans to Plan for Disasters During National Preparedness Month

Citing current wildfires in Southern California and several storms impacting coastal regions, the U.S. Small Business Administration [SBA] is encouraging Americans to be prepared. In a message posted today on YouTube, SBA Administrator Karen G. Mills [pictured] reminds the public about National Preparedness Month and the devastating effects of disaster, encouraging everyone to develop and implement disaster preparedness plans.

"There’s a tendency to think that a large-scale disaster is not going to happen 'where I live,'" Mills. "We should all realize that storms, floods, earthquakes, fires and man-made disasters can strike at any time and anywhere. Taking responsibility for your own post-disaster recovery is a good step toward protecting your family, your business and your community."

The U.S. Small Business Administration is one of many federal, state and local government and private-sector coalition partners participating in this September’s National Preparedness Month.

The Administrator’s video can be found at www.youtube.com/sba.

To prepare for disasters, SBA offers the following tips:

Develop a solid emergency response plan. Find evacuation routes from the home or business, and establish meeting places. Make sure everyone understands the plan beforehand. Keep emergency phone numbers handy. Business owners should designate a contact person to communicate with other employees, customers and vendors. Homeowners, renters and business owners should ask an out-of-state friend, colleague or family member to be a "post-disaster" point of contact, supporting the flow of information about short-term relocations, recovery, additional sources of assistance, etc.

Make sure you have adequate insurance coverage. Disaster preparedness begins with having adequate insurance coverage -- at least enough to rebuild your home or business. Homeowners and business owners should review their policies to see what is or isn’t covered. Companies should consider business interruption insurance, which helps cover operating costs during the post-disaster shutdown period. Flood insurance is essential. To find out more about the National Flood Insurance Program, visit the website at www.floodsmart.gov/.

Copy important records. It’s a good idea to back up vital records and information saved on computer hard drives, and store that information at a distant offsite location in fireproof safe deposit boxes. You should have copies/backups of important documents ready to take with you if you have to evacuate.

Create a "Disaster Survival Kit." The kit should include a flashlight, a portable radio, extra batteries, first-aid supplies, non-perishable food, bottled water, a basic tool kit, plastic sheeting and garbage bags, cash, and a digital camera to take pictures of the property damage after the storm.

More preparedness tips for businesses, homeowners and renters are available on the SBA’s website at www.sba.gov/disasterassistance.

The Institute for Business and Home Safety [www.disastersafety.org/] also has information on protecting your home or business. To learn more about developing an emergency plan, visit the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Ready Campaign website at www.ready.gov/; or, call 1-800-BE-READY to receive free materials.

Following a disaster, the SBA makes low-interest loans to homeowners, renters and non-farm businesses of all sizes. Homeowners may borrow up to $200,000 to repair or replace damaged real estate. Individuals may borrow up to $40,000 to cover losses to personal property.

Non-farm businesses and nonprofit organizations of any size may apply for up to $2 million to repair or replace disaster-damaged business assets and real property. Small businesses that suffered economic losses as a direct result of the declared disaster may apply for a working capital loan up to $2 million, even if the property was not physically damaged.

To learn more about the SBA’s disaster assistance program, visit the website at www.sba.gov/disasterassistance.

SOURCE: U.S. Small Business Administration

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