Cantwell Calls on Agency to Improve Coordination for Rural Small Business Growth

Cantwell, colleagues say there’s been a ‘lack of action’ and urge better coordination between SBA, USDA

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined her colleagues on the Senate Small Business Committee in sending a letter to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) urging better coordination with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to increase assistance to small businesses in underserved rural areas.

More than a year ago, on April 22, 2010, the U.S. Small Business Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that set a goal to increase the number of small business loans guaranteed by SBA and USDA, as well as to expand technical assistance in rural areas. In a recent Small Business Committee hearing on June 16, 2011, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) testified about concerns on the lack of action on this MOU. The letter sent today was also signed by Small Business Committee Chair Mary Landrieu (D-LA), and Committee members Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Mark Pryor (D-AR).

“While GAO noted that this is a step in the right direction towards improving coordination, it also testified about concerns on a general lack of action on this MOU,” the senators wrote in the letter. “Similarly, we believe the MOU alone is not a success story unless there are activities in the field offices. In light of our recent Committee hearing and the President’s announcement of a White House Rural Council, we write to get further information on specific activities resulting from the SBA-USDA MOU.”

The MOU included an agreement to hold semiannual meetings between SBA District Directors (or designees) and their Rural Development counterparts. Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Washington are part of the 17 states covered by this MOU.

Today’s letter to SBA included the following specific questions:

  • What collaborative activities has SBA taken since entering into the MOU with USDA in April 2010? Please detail each action, the specific goal of each action, and locations of these collaborative activities.
  • Have surveys of your district offices been conducted to determine the extent to which the collaboration is occurring with USDA across the country?
  • Does SBA have offices co-located with USDA Rural Development offices? If so, where? 
  • Has the SBA partnered with any regional/state/local organizations under the auspices of the MOU?

The SBA is one of 25 Executive Branch agencies, offices, and departments listed as a member of the White House Rural Council in Executive Order 13575. President Obama signed this order on June 9, 2011 to establish the White House Rural Council. This is an interagency coordination council designed to provide policy recommendations to promote economic prosperity and quality of life in rural America. 

To see of copy of today’s letter, click here