In anticipation of the change in administration, the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has been working aggressively to prepare our small, minority, women, and veteran owned businesses since early last year.
During our annual marketing trip to Washington DC last March we began to discuss what opportunities would be made available based upon which individual took office. Throughout our time in our nations capital, at every event and meeting we attended, we shared how El Paso is a shining example of not only the vitality, cooperation, and, progress that exists in border communities but, how despite many individuals preconceived notions, border communities are among the safest in our nation and that El Paso has consistently been ranked as the safest city in the nation for the past four years.
Understanding that securing our borders is a critical task; technological, innovative, and creative solutions spurred by our nation’s entrepreneurs are better solutions and options for accomplishing this goal than creating a massive, intimidating, physical barrier. Barriers create division, fear and, uncertainty. We live and work day and out in a border region where our lives are united and enhanced by the intertwining of family, business, industry, and culture.
While we have repeatedly expressed our belief that building bridges rather than walls is essential for the growth and success of our community, we are working diligently to help ensure that our businesses are shovel ready and able to take advantage of any opportunities created by the new administrations priorities. The options we have developed not only respect the economic challenges presented by this issue, but allow us to still respect the dignity of all individuals affected.
Considering the suggested substantial cost associated with the construction of a 2,000 mile border wall which we understand will be built by tax payer funds diverted for the undertaking of this project, we would suggest those dollars be much better spent advancing other priorities of the administration such as job creation and the development of economic opportunities for our nation and for all.
The El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce remains committed to not only working to ensure the success of our communities small, minority, women, and veteran owned business, but to also continuing to promote our border community as a shining example of why unity and building bridges are better tools than division and building walls.
Access to Capital
One of the major challenges facing small businesses today is their ability to access to credit and capital. The ability for small businesses to be able to access credit and capital throughout their lifetime is vital for the ensured success of their business and the growth of our national economy. To ensure that businesses have greater access to credit and capital, the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce recommends the following:
- Increase the authorization level for SBA loans
- Increase the Credit Union Cap
- Ensure businesses have access to funds through alternative means such as crowdfunding.
Tax Reform for Small Businesses:
Burdensome tax is continually one of their chief complaints of small businesses. High tax rates and an overly complex tax code are two of the worst problems currently plaguing businesses. Seventy five percent of small businesses are organized as pass through entities, meaning that they pay taxes on their income at the individual rather than the corporate tax rate. This leads to reduced cash flow and limits investment. The complexity of the tax code further drains small businesses of their financial resources and valuable time. The El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce urges Congress to pursue comprehensive tax reform and consider the following changes:
- Lower the individual tax rate
- Eliminate the Estate Tax
- Eliminate the Alternative Minimum tax
- Simplify the tax code
- Better define employees vs independent contractors
One of the largest costs small business face is the rising cost of healthcare. For the past 20 years, healthcare costs have been steadily rising, straining small businesses and making it more difficult for these businesses to offer health insurance to their employees. From 2013 to 2014 alone, 62% of small businesses experienced premium increases. This problem will likely only be exacerbated by the burdensome rules and regulations created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. To ease the burden on small businesses, the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce suggests Congress work to:
- Repeal the employer mandate
- Repeal the health insurance tax
- Allow businesses to provide their employees with more options
Our members urge Congress and the Administration to improve the federal marketplace by improving transparency and ensuring small businesses are treated fairly and equitably Small businesses deserve equal opportunities to participate in the federal marketplace
Small businesses infuse the federal procurement system with much-needed competition and provide high-quality goods and services to federal-contracting agencies—a recognition reflected in the objectives of the Small Business Reauthorization Act of 1997, which called for 23 percent of prime, federal contracts to be awarded to small firms.
For the second year in a row, the 23% was met for FY 2015. in FY 2014, the federal government actually surpassed the 23 % goal, awarding 24.99 % of all federal contracts, or $91.7 billion in contracts to small businesses. The members of the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce applaud all of the federal agencies for their dedication in ensuring that these goals are met and that our small businesses are allowed the chance to succeed. The EPHCC’s members support increasing the federal government’s federal-contracting goal. Additionally, our members urge Congress and the administration to pursue the following policies:
- Terminate the practice of contract bundling
- Ensure businesses are paid in a timely manner
- Improve oversight for OMB
- Streamline the 8(a) certification process
In a ranking of top problems for small businesses, regulatory issues rank second. With ten new regulations being finalized every day, the burden regulations place on businesses is constantly growing; straining businesses limited resources and taking up more and more of their valuable time. The El Paso Hispanic Chamber suggests that Congress take the following steps to help ease the burden of regulations for small businesses:
- Clarify the indirect costs of regulation
- Increase Business Input
- Reduce Penalties and Fines
- Provide More Compliance Assistance Resources
- National Regulatory Budget
The chamber’s members understand the need for employees to be fairly and equitably compensated for their efforts. However, the needs and demands of the labor force must be balanced with the needs and constraints of the business community. On the surface, the proposed changes to these regulations appear to greatly benefit American workers. However, when the effects these changes have on businesses are examined, it is clear that both businesses and workers will suffer. When small businesses suffer, American workers suffer. The financial burden and strain these changes will place on businesses will force business owners to demote and lay off employees and cut hours to keep their businesses operational. Like the employees whose hours will be cut or who will no longer have a paycheck, business owners have families to support. Burdensome regulations, such as those proposed, limit the ability of these community members to be profitable and provide for their families. The proposed increase is too drastic and will, in the end, hurt American workers, businesses, and the economy more than it will help.
Based on the opinions of our members, the Chamber recommends adjusting the salary threshold according to the median income and cost of living of specific regions rather than utilizing one income threshold for the entire country. If, for whatever reason, this is not a feasible option, the chamber recommends increasing the threshold to $30,000. Any further increases to the threshold should be made incrementally over time. These proposals balance the needs of the labor force with the constraints facing many small businesses. This allows both groups to flourish and help the economy grow.
In addition, the Chamber urges Congress to support S. 2707 and H.R. 4773, the Protecting Workplace Advancement and Opportunity Act, which would nullify the proposed rule. The passage of this legislation would allow the Department of Labor more time to investigate the true cost of these proposed rules to both businesses and employees.
Small businesses are currently facing a shortage of skilled workers making them particularly susceptible to the impacts of immigration reform. While the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce understands the complexity of this issue, the following suggestions will help the US compete in the global market and encourage economic growth.
- E-Verify Requirements: Mandatory E- Verify requirements should have reasonable penalties, contain a swift error correction mechanism, and compensate both individuals and businesses for any losses incurred due to database errors.
- Changes to Visa Programs: Congress should consider instituting a new visa category for highly skilled workers, increasing the number of visas available for foreign born students graduating with an advanced STEM degree, and eliminating the per country numerical cap on employment based visas.
- Reform the H-2B and H-2A Visa Programs: Congress should work towards reforming the H-2B visa program by making the 3 year return worker exemption permanent, adjusting the cap on the number of these visas issued utilizing a market based regulator, and working to streamline the process. In addition, the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce supports efforts to modernize, reduce red tape, and improve the efficiency of the H-2A visa program.