February 03, 2021
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe questioned Isabella Guzman today at a Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee hearing on her nomination to be the administrator of the Small Business Administration.
Inhofe: Thank you, Mr. Chairman for hosting this meeting. Mrs. Guzamn, I enjoyed our visit— we had a chance to talk. This is so important to me. I think I impressed upon you that in Oklahoma we are a small business community. In fact, I questioned my staff when they said that we had statistical data that showed that 99% of the businesses in Oklahoma are small businesses— employing over half of the workers in Oklahoma. So, I think we’re the ones that really need this program.
There are two problems with it, that have nothing to do with the pandemic, but things I want to call to your attention because there are things we need to be addressing that you may not have thought of before. I agree with the comments that have been made about the Paycheck Protection Program and it’s been very helpful.
A problem that we have in my state of Oklahoma, and of course maybe I am partly to blame, is that our businesses don’t know what resources are out there: what the SBA does, what their mission is, what is available to them [small businesses]. Sometimes I get a response of surprise that there is resources out there.
Do you have any ideas on what you could do, maybe we could work together, to lift the awareness of what SBA is all about and what’s there for our small businesses?
Guzman: Thank you, Senator Inhofe. I agree that connection to resources is one of the biggest challenges for small businesses. President Biden has prioritized establishing navigators in communities— so local voices who can connect to small businesses and inform them of the resources that exists.
If confirmed, I would want to leverage SBA’s field offices, resource partners, as well as extensive partnerships across chambers and other organizations to help to that end.
Inhofe: So, he [President Biden] has talked to you about this?
Guzman: The President has mentioned several times navigators in terms of his priorities. So, yes for the Small Business Administration that would be one of our priorities.
Inhofe: Yes. Sometimes we run into this in government there are opportunities that reach a level of perfection and yet they are not reaching the ones that are supposed to be reached.
I think there is something that as members—maybe some of my fellow members are doing things that I am not doing—but I have not been successful in doing this and this is something I think really should be a pretty high priority.
Inhofe: I look forward to working with you on that. Now, another program that's been promoted, and not just the pandemic, but the program is ongoing. It's the EIDL program. That's the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, as you're fully aware of. It was designed originally for natural disasters. Now, in my state of Oklahoma, we have had more than our share of natural disasters. So, this has been very helpful. But, we do hear quite often that the EIDL program has experienced a lot of delays in process and we've also heard of significant issues of fraud inside the program. I believe that's true. In fact, one constituent shared that her husband did not apply for an EIDL and yet an application appeared and information was used fraudulently in an application. Now, I don't know how that happened, but we do hear that it does happen. Have you addressed the fraud and abuse problem in that particular program.
Guzman: Thank you, Senator. If confirmed, I would prioritize the reduction of fraud, waste and abuse as well as implementing controls and systems and leveraging the technology systems, the new technology systems implemented to ensure this program gets into the hands of small businesses who need it, because I have heard those same stories in California. Very frustrated small businesses or those who could not receive it or get an answer.
Inhofe: In your experience, you've had personal experience with this?
Inhofe: Well, that’s good and I’m glad that you are aware of that. And the last thing I wanted to bring up is the fact that we are aware that some businesses are afraid to reopen because of frivolous law suits and our businesses can’t stay closed because they are afraid of being sued and these businesses will continue play a central role in rebuilding our local economies and I think it’s something we need to be looking at. I would just ask you to agree with me on the importance of providing liability protections to these businesses to ensure our businesses aren’t at risk over frivolous lawsuits.
Guzman: Thank you for that, Senator. I know that liability is a big concern for small businesses and ensuring that we are addressing the pandemic and making it safe for people out in the marketplace is really critical. I will be the voice of small business and express their concerns and use their stories to be elevated and share those experiences.
Inhofe: Well, that’s good, and I’m looking forward to working with you in the future and supporting your nomination.
Guzman: Thank you, Senator.