It does not matter how you fall — it’s how you get back up that counts. That’s true in life, and it’s true in business. We’ve seen this time and time again in the resilience of small businesses in America.
Thirty million ordinary people accomplishing the extraordinary — they power our economic engine with grit and make real change in their communities. This is still true today despite this past year and the pandemic-induced lockdowns, which made being a small business owner more difficult than ever. But now safely on the other side of the pandemic, small business owners still are not able to catch a break and face a new challenge: finding willing workers.
According to the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), nearly half (44 percent) of businesses report having job openings they couldn’t fill — a record high for un-filled job openings. The current administration has lofty plans to address the labor shortages businesses are currently experiencing, but that is not assuaging the small business owners who need employees today.
In fact, there is reason to believe the current proposals on the table from the Biden administration may make matters worse. For example, the NFIB also reported that in April, as the Biden administration rolled out its American Jobs and Families Plans and the tax plans to fund them, the number of small businesses expecting the economy to improve actually fell and is well below the level of optimism in October and November of last year.
Those looking for the most effective way to match employers with ready-to-work employees should look to the states, our laboratories of democracy. Governors in 22 states have announced their states will soon end their participation in the federal pandemic-related unemployment insurance programs.
Alabama, Montana and South Carolina were among the first states to make this announcement and their unemployment rates — 3.6 percent, 3.7 percent, and 5.0 percent, respectively — fall far below the national unemployment rate of 6.1 percent. Montana even announced using funds from the American Rescue Plan to provide return-to-work bonuses to employees. Not only do these policies incentivize workers to rejoin the labor market, but they also satisfy businesses critical need to fill open positions. It’s a win-win, and as we have witnessed throughout our Nation’s history, when small businesses thrive, the communities they surround thrive as well.
As the 25th administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), I saw this firsthand as I toured 68 districts and met with small business owners to learn about the important work they do to mentor companies and startups. While the locations changed, the business owners’ feedback was consistent and matched what we see in data.
When small businesses benefit from tax and regulatory relief, business owners share that with the communities they serve — by reinvesting in the people they hire and by helping build and support their communities. At every stop, small business owners were making real investments in their businesses and their employees — raising wages, providing bonuses and benefits, and creating more jobs by growing their businesses.
But the circumstances today have changed, and I empathize with the small business owners navigating this period of great regulatory and tax uncertainty. I know exactly what they are talking about. And because I’ve been there, I tell them: You have to rebound and go for it. I believe Americans know exactly where their economic freedom comes from and how to use its potential force.
So, let’s coach them up and get out of their way. Americans want to work, and we have a record number of job openings for Americans to fill. Rather than blocking Americans from returning to employment, the government should get out of the way and allow American workers and businesses to do what they do best — bounce back.
• Linda McMahon, chair of the Board of America First Policy Institute, served in President Trump’s Cabinet as administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA). She was the president and later CEO of WWE, INC., which she and her husband, Vince, grew from a small regional corporation to a multinational public company.
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