America was made by entrepreneurs ó individuals whose hard work and tenacious spirits allowed them to build our nation, brick by brick and storefront by storefront, into what it is today. For hundreds of years we have relied on small-business owners to carry our economy forward, buoy it when it falters and rebuild it when it crumbles. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy proclaimed the first National Small Business Week to honor the individuals whose sacrifices and triumphs make up the backbone of this nation. This week marks the 50th anniversary of that proclamation. While the economy has had its ups and downs over the years, the fortitude of our small businesses and the honor we bestow on them hasnít changed a bit.
As we celebrate small businesses this week, itís critical to reflect on their effect to our economy. Small firms account for half of private sector employment and have created 2 out of 3 net new jobs over the past couple of decades.
While they have been very successful, there is plenty we can do to help small firms. There are various policies either on the books or making their way through Congress that could help small businesses right now.
A Misunderstood Law
Full implementation of the health care law is mere months away. Despite it being the law of the land for more than three years, the politics surrounding it continues to cloud the positive real-life implications it will have on small businesses.
Some key provisions of the law for small businesses are often overshadowed by mistruths and partisan rhetoric. For instance, itís a fact that the law doesnít actually require any business to offer coverage. If a business has 50 or more full-time employees but none of the workers receive a tax credit or cost-sharing reduction to purchase coverage through a state exchange, thereís no penalty ó whether the employer offers health insurance or not.
Whatís more, only businesses with more than 50 full-time employees are required to offer insurance if an employee gets a subsidy. In the U.S., 96 percent of all businesses have fewer than 50 employees. Of the 4 percent with more than 50, 96 percent of them already offer insurance. That means only 0.02 percent of businesses have more than 50 employees and are not offering them insurance.
Lastly, small-business health insurance exchanges will be available starting Jan. 1, 2014. These marketplaces will allow small businesses to band together when buying coverage ó giving them the purchasing clout that large businesses currently enjoy. Tax credits of up to 50 percent of premium costs will be provided through the exchanges to help offset costs.
Reforming a Broken System
Across all industries and from one end of the political spectrum to the other, small-business owners firmly believe our immigration system is broken. Nine in 10 entrepreneurs say so, which is why itís not surprising the vast majority also support comprehensive reform and a pathway to citizenship. Our opinion polling found they believe it will be good for America, small businesses and the economy, and will help create more stable workforces.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.