June 04, 2020

Senator Hirono Highlights Challenges for Small Businesses During Coronavirus in Small Business Committee Hearing

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Yesterday, Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) used the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship hearing to highlight the challenges to accessing capital that small businesses face during the coronavirus pandemic. The Senator focused on the important role of Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and other community-based lenders in supporting small and emerging businesses in underserved communities in Hawaii and across the country, and the need for Congress and the Administration to do more to support these institutions.

The Senator asked witness Connie Evans, President and CEO of the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) to assess and address challenges small businesses face in navigating the loan application process, and the need for technical assistance and clear information for the smallest of businesses.

“Have we done enough to ensure that CDFIs have the money that they can loan to small businesses? Have we done enough—or is that still something that we need to address in the next COVID bill?” Senator Hirono asked.

Ms. Evans responded, noting in part that “It is definitely something we still need to address. We are grateful that there was the priority of CDFIs, but one of the recommendations from AEO…is to deal with the appropriation of $1 billion to CDFIs—they need this money. Many of the CDFIs are also participating as microloan intermediaries, so increasing technical assistance. Many businesses need both—they need the lending but they also need technical assistance and trusted guidance which also can come from CDFIs and other mission-focused non-profit organizations.”

Senator Hirono has consistently supported CDFI organizations and other community-based lenders in Hawaii. Last month, the Senator and several colleagues sent a letter to Senate leadership requesting an additional $1 billion for the CDFI Fund to provide support for small businesses dealing with the current public health crisis and provide appropriate funding for the Native American CDFI Assistance Program (NACA). In April, Senator Hirono also signed a letter to the Treasury Department and U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) requesting they reserve PPP funding for CDFIs and other community lenders. Last week, Treasury and SBA announced they would reserve $10 billion in PPP funding for CDFIs. 

Senator Hirono has advocated for supporting small businesses especially during the pandemic, calling for the Paycheck Protection Program to be administered with clear rules and guidanceand supporting Hawaii’s small agricultural businesses. The Senator also successfully secureddebt relief for Hawaii’s small businesses in the third coronavirus recovery package.