Cardin retires with a strong history of commitments to entrepreneurs, small business growth
After announcing that he will not run for another term, Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) has been highlighted for his esteemed body of work and advocacy in areas such as education, tax relief for low-income families, and environmental protection. We’ve known that over his five-plus decades in public life, Sen. Cardin has achieved incredible accomplishments, but I don’t believe we’ve heard enough about his impact on the small business community and the policies he has championed that have addressed true small business needs.
During his tenure in the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship, we were proud to work with the senator to provide resources that encourage entrepreneurship and supported small business growth.
Commitment to pursuing lending equity
It has always been clear that Sen. Cardin’s top priority as chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship was to use federal policies and congressional action to achieve equity for underserved entrepreneurs.
Eschewing typical partisan politics, Cardin put small business needs first and sponsored or introduced bipartisan/bicameral legislation. Since access to capital is the lifeblood of small businesses, our nation’s entrepreneurs must have sufficient protections that will allow them to safely access capital. Recently, the Small Business Financing Disclosure Act of 2023 was introduced and we were happy to see Cardin once again co-sponsoring this bicameral bill and recommitting to supporting efforts that will give access to clear and accurate lending terms that are necessary for small business growth.
Cardin leads the way in introducing legislation that targets resources for under-resourced small business communities. In December, we were proud to support Cardin’s efforts to extend equity through the Small Business Administration Reauthorization and Modernization Act of 2022. Through this legislation, the senator committed to expanding the resources of the Small Business Administration (SBA) and creating a pipeline for innovation in minority, low-income, rural, and underserved communities. The New Start Act (legislation to create a reentry program and fund business counseling for justice-impacted people) and the UPLIFT Act (legislation to invest in underserved innovators by providing resources to Historically Black Colleges and Universities) are part of the Reauthorization and Modernization Act and will help to expand opportunities for access to responsible credit and capital. These pieces of legislation are yet another example of how Cardin has championed programs and policies that remove barriers to small business ownership for people in under-resourced communities and build long-term financial sustainability within the small business community.
Leading role in targeting coronavirus relief for small businesses
One of the biggest programs during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic was the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which distributed more than $800 billion, sustaining millions of small businesses and tens of millions of American jobs. Cardin was one of the original authors of PPP and pushed to include provisions to increase the program’s flexibility. Equally important, Cardin introduced bipartisan legislation to allow self-employed individuals who previously applied to PPP to reapply for more funding.
The COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) programs have allocated more than $380 billion in relief aid to more than 4 million small businesses in the hardest-hit, low-income areas through small grants and low interest and long-term loans. However, at the height of the pandemic, the SBA experienced setbacks in meeting the program’s goals leading to approximately 125,000 COVID EIDL applicants not receiving their approved funds and an additional 41,000 applicants never receiving a decision. Despite these challenges, the senator was instrumental in advocating for the continued processing of EIDL applications and the distribution of all funds. He pressed the SBA to continue the momentum of the programs and complete the program “in a way that represents the values of our committee and values the COVID EIDL program’s importance to small businesses,” as he once said during an oversight hearing.
Additionally, in 2022, Cardin introduced the Hard-Hit Small Business Relief Fund, legislation that provided grants to hard-hit small businesses that demonstrated substantial losses in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This legislation complemented his ongoing efforts to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.
It’s almost impossible to address all of the work and influence Senator Cardin has accomplished during his many years as a true small business advocate within this piece. Each time he briefed our network at a Small Business Majority event, he supplied the attendees with interesting and helpful information about legislation that would help to level the playing field for small firms. It’s hard to capture in words his graciousness and positive attitude that may stem from his organic relationships with small business owners, driving his support for investments and policies that will give small businesses the best shot at success. And he has always endeavored to work in a bipartisan manner. Unfortunately, policymakers don’t always have their constituents’ best interests at heart and sometimes choose to pursue brinkmanship instead of the art of compromise. Cardin has consistently recognized that lawmakers should disavow partisanship for efforts that will bolster economic growth and support small businesses. We hope that whoever fills his shoes will practice the same strategies.
John Arensmeyer is the founder & CEO of the Small Business Majority
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