Most hearings before the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee feature a lively debate between business owners with differing opinions on, say, new federal regulations or proposed legislation in Congress.
On Tuesday, there was no debate. Committee Chair Mary Landrieu (D-La.) called a hearing to discuss the impact of the government shutdown, and the message from every entrepreneur in the room was the same: It is crippling their companies.
“We’re now on day 15 of a government shutdown, and unfortunately, we’re only two days away of the possibility of the United States signaling to the world that we will not pay our bills,” Landrieu said to open the hearing, which was organized by Senate Democrats. She added that the stalemate in Congress “is stopping a lot of economic work in our nation.”
A number of small-business owners in her state have felt the ripple effects of the shutdown, Landrieu said. One entrepreneur, for instance, had planned to purchase and expand a cafe in Donaldsonville, La. However, he could not get the final loan approval he needed from the Small Business Administration before the agency closed, and his acquisition and hiring plans are now on hold.
It became clear during the hearing that he is not alone. A handful of small employers from various sectors, including technology, tourism and manufacturing, explained in turn how their firms have been stymied by the shutdown, many of them offering harsh words for the officials they elected to represent them in Congress.
Here’s what they had to say.
Sabrina Poole, chief executive of SERDI in Gaithersburg, Md.
Poole’s company provides information-technology consulting services to federal and state government clients, and her revenues are down 25 percent since the shutdown, due largely to work stoppages at the Department of Agriculture, the Internal Revenue Service and Federal Aviation Administration. Now, she said she is having trouble managing the one large contract she still has up and running with the Defense Department.
“We’ve had to lay off billable and non-billable staff, which means that the current contract that we do have that has not had a stop order, we do not have anyone to oversee the contract,” Poole said during the hearing. “Compared to large companies, we don’t have deep pockets where we can keep people on the payroll.”
If the shutdown ends this week, she says it will likely take her a year to recoup all the losses and get back on track. If it continues for several more weeks, the damage could be far worse.
“I’m really concerned that I will be forced to close my business if a resolution is not reached quickly,” Poole said, later calling the gridlock in Washington “disturbing.”
“We have sacrificed, struggled and slowly made progress as a woman-owned small business, and the shutdown threatens to destroy all our progress, wiping away a decade of sacrifice,” she added.
Keith Griffall, chief executive of TL Technologies in Salt Lake City, Utah
“It would be pretty hard to overstate the adverse economic effects this shutdown of the government and the national parks have had on small businesses and entire communities,” said Griffall, whose firm operates group travel tours all across the western United States.
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