We are frequently bombarded with headlines of big banks and large corporations struggling to survive. But the unreported news of the economic recession comes from Main Streets throughout America, where small businesses have suffered 80 percent of all job losses since November.
Today marks the start of National Small Business Week, when our nation should shift its focus to the countless contributions small businesses make to create jobs and strengthen the economy.
Our economy depends on the health of our 27 million small businesses. They are the family businesses throughout the country whose thread still weaves the American Dream. They are the technology startups that produce cutting-edge clean energy sources, lifesaving medical advances and safer equipment for our troops. And they are the construction companies that build our schools and our homes, and the businesses that fix our roads and our bridges.
Small firms pump almost a trillion dollars into the economy each year, create two-thirds of our nations new jobs annually and account for more than half of Americas work force.
Yet small businesses across the country are in trouble. Many Americans can no longer afford to shop in Main Street boutiques or eat at local restaurants. Instead, they are pinching pennies to pay the bills, leaving small-business owners scrambling to pay their own.
At the same time, entrepreneurs are being turned away from all sources of capital financing, including loans and credit cards. Even business owners with the best credit histories are having trouble obtaining the funds they need to stay open.
Many entrepreneurs who typically would have been able to secure Small Business Administration loans cant even get those because that source of financing has been infected by the broader problems of our major financial institutions.
When Main Street businesses cant access credit, stores close and Americans lose jobs. With more than 13 million people out of work, our innovators and job creators must be able to operate at full capacity.
That is why we are continuing the fight to help small businesses lead the nation out of this recession.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act took bold steps to increase access to capital for the nations entrepreneurs. We worked together to temporarily eliminate fees on SBA-backed loans so that more business owners have the ability to borrow. We also temporarily increased to 90 percent the guarantee on government-backed loans to encourage risk-weary banks to lend. There are signs these provisions are starting to free up credit. The SBA is now approving 25 percent more loans per week than it was before Congress passed the Recovery Act.
The Recovery Act will also help stimulate new lending to businesses that employ 10 or fewer workers through $50 million in microloans and management assistance, programs helping our smallest businesses adjust to the tough economy. The bill also helps unclog the secondary market and bolsters funding for the surety bond program to increase the number of small businesses competing for federal contracts.
Overall, these provisions will pump about $16 billion in loans and venture capital into small businesses in our communities, creating or saving thousands of jobs.
But we must do more. We are both committed to working together to provide entrepreneurs with the necessary tools to lead us out of this recession. We are working with the administration to reauthorize the Small Business Administration and its critical programs. These initiatives assist entrepreneurs in starting and growing businesses and are responsible for creating more than 1.5 million jobs last year.
While corporate giants get the headlines, we do not want our Main Street businesses owners n the breadlines. We cannot forget the unwritten stories of small businesses that are forced to shut their doors. We must focus our energy on strengthening our nations small businesses, which are key to revitalizing Americas economic prosperity.
Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) are chairwoman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee.