Forget The Fiscal Cliff. There Are Only 9 Days Left To Help Small Businesses

Includes: DIA, SPY
by: Mark Sunshine

The Senate has only 9 days to climb off the legislative cliff and pass a bill that will help small business throughout America.

No, I am not counting days until we fall off Fiscal Cliff. I am counting the days remaining for the Senate to approve the Small Business Investment Company Modernization Act of 2012, also known as H.R. 6504.

H.R. 6504 is only a one sentence bill that changes a single word in existing legislation and modestly increases the maximum allowable size of small business investment companies.

There is no pork attached to HR. 6504 and no implied political statements in the preamble of the legislation.

It just doesn't get any legislatively easier or more straightforward than H.R. 6504. But once the new Senate is sworn in at 12 noon on January 3rd, it will be too late. H.R. 6504 will die.

The Small Business Investment Company Modernization Act of 2012 changes the amount of leverage a family of small business investment companies can receive from the Small Business Administration from an aggregate cap of $225 million to $350 million. That means that certain types of small business lenders and investors called small business investment companies can borrow more from the SBA than before.

The bill doesn't change the overall limits for the small business investment company program, or otherwise touch any other aspect of the program in any way. It makes it a little more attractive for sponsors of small business investment companies to spend time and money in the small business sector by allowing a little more scale to individual program participants. Since the program was formed in the late 1950s it has been standard operating procedure for Congress to make sure that the program remains relevant by approving increases in allowable program participant size to match inflation and economic growth.

The small business investment company program, also known as the SBIC Program, has been around since 1958 and has not cost the Federal government a dime since its formation. The SBIC Program is an example of government "working" for the benefit of everyone through public-private partnership.

The equity for small business investment companies comes exclusively from private investors. The SBA's role is to provide loans to small business investment companies instead of these investment pools getting their loans from banks. The SBA loans are made on attractive terms and the SBA charges a fee to program participants. It is through these loans to small business investment companies that the SBA helps get money into the hands of small business.

However, it is the managers of the small business investment companies who make investment decisions and allocate capital, not the SBA. And, if small business investment companies make good investments, it is the private shareholders of the small business investment companies who benefit. On the other hand, if small business investment companies lose money, their shareholders bear the burden of loss.

The small business investment program does not cost the Federal government a dime. It charges program participants a fee which covers all costs. The SBA seems pretty good at charging the right amount of fee for the program because they have gotten it right for the last 54 consecutive years.

However, there is a catch. For private investors to receive the benefits of the small business investment company program they must actually make investments in small businesses in the United States. The investments can be debt or equity, but they have to be actual investments in U.S. small businesses.

So just to review, H.R. 6504 changes a single word in existing legislation relating to a successful program that doesn't have any attached pork or politically charged language. The program is self-funding and has been a successful and non-controversial contributor to the economy since 1958.

How did the bill do in the House of Representatives?

Surprisingly well. In the parochial atmosphere of the House, H.R. 6504 passed with overwhelming bi-partisan support. The official vote was 359 yea to 36 nea, which is approximately a 90% vote to approve.

I estimate that Approximately 25,000 employees of small business will benefit in 2013 from H.R. 6504, as well as a like number of employees in 2014, 2015, 2016 and every year thereafter. Over 10 years that's a quarter of a million American jobs.

It is not like there is a lot of controversy in the Senate over this bill. After all, there were three bills introduced in the Senate that did the same thing as H.R. 6504. It's just that the House passed the resolution while the Senate didn't.

The Senate does not need to inconvenience itself by actually coming to Washington and voting. It can suspend its rules and approve H.R. 6504 tomorrow, or the next day or the next; only a handful of Senators are needed to get this done. But, including what is left of today, Saturday and Sunday, New Year's Eve, New Year's Day and the morning of January 3rd, there are only 9 days to pass H.R. 6504 before it dies. Of actual normal work days there are only two days left, December 27th and December 28th. And unfortunately, according to the Senate web site H.R. 6504 isn't scheduled to be considered either day.

One must admit that 25,000 jobs in 2013 isn't a lot of jobs in the greater scheme of things for the U.S. economy. But to the scheme of 25,000 individuals who would immediately benefit from this bill, and the quarter of a million who would benefit in the years to come, this bill could mean the world. It means the difference between self-reliance and reliance on government; it means the different between bringing home the bacon and realizing that a food stamp does not afford a slice of meat.

9 days and counting for the Senate to say "yes" to small business, "yes" to jobs and "yes" to the America people. I know the Senate can pass H.R. 6504; all they have to do is try.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

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