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AEO is the Voice of Microbusiness—and Your Voice Amplifies Ours!

Since its inception in 1991, AEO has been at the forefront of the charge to champion microbusinesses in the halls of government. From advocacy through congressional testimony to lobbying legislators to ensure the availability of capital and technical assistance to microbusinesses nationwide, we are dedicated to driving the conversation about what underserved entrepreneurs need to start, stabilize, and grow their endeavors.

The full list of AEO’s advocacy efforts in the past three decades can be read here, but key highlights include:

  • In 1991, AEO drafted and worked to pass the original, five-year pilot Microloan program as part of the FY1992 Commerce, Justice, State Appropriations Bill. The program became operational the following year.
  • In 1998, AEO developed the Program for Investment in Microentrepreneurs (PRIME) with support from Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM). PRIME grants became available three years later.
  • AEO advocated for the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP), which was established by the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008.
  • The organization formed the Micro Capital Task Force in 2013, a private multi-stakeholder task force to present fact-based, practical recommendations to the White House, Department of Treasury, and Congress regarding access to capital in amounts of up to $250,000 for the smallest businesses.
  • In 2019, AEO worked with the House Appropriations Committee and the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee to increase funding to and modernize lending programs such as the SBA’s Microloan Program and Treasury’s CDFI Fund. AEO was also the only association to testify to the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship during a hearing on the modernization and reauthorization of the Microloan Program.

AEO continues to work with representatives at the highest level of government each day to ensure that AEO members’ priorities are given attention. So what’s next? The Senate needs to work quickly to pass appropriations bills before the end of the fiscal year on September 30. Currently, there are several issues under consideration that could greatly impact underserved entrepreneurs.

The House has passed the Fiscal Year 2020 Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) funding bill, providing annual funding for a number of agencies including the Department of the Treasury and the Small Business Administration (SBA). As it stands, the bill increases funding to essential programs that benefit America’s smallest, yet mightiest, businesses. In addition, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) has introduced the AEO-endorsed Microloan Program Expansion Act of 2019, which enacts much needed-changes to modernize the program that has resulted in a total of $845 million in loans made by intermediaries to small businesses—creating or retaining more than 246,000 jobs.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) recently introduced the Closing the Credit Gap Act to make the Community Advantage pilot program permanent, and to expand the categories of eligible businesses to include women and other socially and economically disadvantaged entrepreneurs—regardless of business location. He also introduced the Unlocking Opportunities in Emerging Markets Act, which would create an Office of Emerging Markets to ensure that the SBA’s access to capital initiatives address the specific needs of entrepreneurs in underserved emerging domestic markets.

AEO wants you! (To get involved.)

Your legislators are in recess right now. That means they are home, in their districts, and they are meeting with local taxpayers and businesspeople on the issues that matter to them. More information on crucial topics such as the funding and modernization of the Microloan program, and programs that enable access to technical assistance and entrepreneurial development can be viewed in AEO’s recess packet. The packet also includes instructions on how to schedule meetings with your members of Congress.

AEO is committed to creating systemic change that helps propel the growth of the tens of millions of small businesses and microbusinesses in America. Central to that commitment is a robust policy agenda that makes us part of the national conversation on what entrepreneurs need in order to thrive and overcome barriers to success. Your voice amplifies ours. Together, we can continue to assist lawmakers implement the kind of change that makes a real difference for Main Street.