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Tag: SBIR reauthorization

SBIR Reauthorization Effort Continues to be at Standstill

Written by on Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

Despite ongoing negotiations in the Senate and House throughout 2009, the new year is beginning with the SBIR reauthorization effort at a continued standstill.

While Congress did successfully save the SBIR/STTR from extinction by implementing a series of five continuing resolutions (“CR”) since the authorization expired back in September 2008, no permanent solution has been reached and the current CR is set to expire on January 31, 2010.  Thus, the SBIR/STTR programs continue to be in limbo.

If you have been following this issue at all and are familiar with the SBIR/STTR programs, you may be wondering why these programs continue to be in a perpetual state of almost extinction.

According to the SBIR Gateway, which has been covering this issue, the problem is that the Senate and the House cannot agree on the terms of a reauthorization bill.  There are apparently eight issues that are still being debated:

  1. Length of reauthorization;
  2. Venture capital participation in SBIR;
  3. Award levels;
  4. Sequential Phase II award;
  5. Retention of Phase I requirement;
  6. Allocation increase;
  7. Administrative funds; and
  8. Rural and state outreach.

SBIR Gateway attributes the problems to the fact that ” the more the Senate was willing to compromise, the more the House wanted” and asserts that the “House Small Business Committee under the leadership of Nydia Velazquez and her staffer Michael Day wanted to hold the SBIR program hostage.”  According to SBIR Gateway, a key issue is that Velazquez is receiving large campaign contributions from the National Venture Capital Association (“NVCA”) and biotech investors, and they are the groups who would stand to benefit from the House Bill the most.   So, the argument is that Velazquez is unwilling to agree to more than a two year reauthorization for this very reason.

Regardless of what is going on here, it is clear that the whole SBIR reauthorization effort has become bogged down in politics and has been therefore left on the backburner.  Based on what I personally have observed this past year, I would argue that this seems to be the current state of affairs for anything involving small business: Congress seems to have put small businesses in general on the backburner for whatever reason, despite the fact that small businesses, which include biotech companies and other start-ups, provide the majority of jobs in this country and unemployment as well as underemployment continues to be the overarching concern of most Americans today. So, small businesses have largely been left to fend for themselves through this recession and deal with the fact that access to capital has all but dried up, while Congress has been out bailing out banks, failed auto companies, and other “too big to fail” institutions–which employ only a small percentage of the nation’s workforce–with our taxpayer dollars.

Does any of this really make sense?

The California Biotech Law Blog would like to see Congress to reassess its priorities in 2010:  it is time to put the focus on small business.   I am certain that many of you in the biotech community would agree that getting serious about finally passing a  SBIR/STTR reauthorization bill would be a good start.

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Category: Biotech Legislative Developments  |  Comments Off on SBIR Reauthorization Effort Continues to be at Standstill

SBIR/STTR Program Set to Expire Later This Month; Support for Reauthorization Waning

Written by on Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

As we reported previously, he SBIR/STTR program is set to expire on March 20th of this month, unless Congress takes last minute emergency action to save it.

Unfortunately,  SBIR Insider author Rick Shindell reports that there is growing opposition in Congress to saving the SBIR/STTR program.

In fact, the idea of even providing funding for the SBIR/STTR program was rejected with the passage of the Stimulus Bill in Congress, where according to The SBIR Coach’s Blog, a provision that would have provided the SBIR/STTR programs $250 million was struck at the last minute from the bill and language was inserted which explicitly precluded the NIH from using the stimulus money for the SBIR/STTR programs.

Does this really make sense?  Regardless of how you feel about the Stimulus Bill that was passed, does it make sense to exclude funding for small businesses from a bill that is supposed to stimulate the economy and create jobs?

The SBIR Coach’s Blog voices its opinion on this issue as follows:

What were they thinking? As Ann said in her alert, “Such an exclusion is underhanded and entirely inappropriate.” There’s the understatement of the year (so far)!

Entirely inappropriate for sure. Does it make sense for the NIH to not seek additional innovative solutions from our small businesses — a sector hailed by President Obama himself as being the most likely one to create the jobs that we so desperately need? 2.5% +0.3% of $7.4B is $207.2M that’s been inappropriately withheld from our small businesses. That could be used to create a whole bunch of jobs!

And underhanded to boot! They snuck the wording into the fine print in “code” so we wouldn’t spot it. A search for “SBIR” or “STTR” won’t turn anything up.

While I agree that the SBIR/STTR program is far from perfect, and I have been critical of the whole SBA program in the past based on my personal experiences with the SBA in trying to secure loans for my business, it is my personal opinion that, at a time like this when the economy seems to many of us to be in freefall, reauthorizing SBIR/STTR should be a no-brainer.  Why wouldn’t Congress want to maintain support for small businesses, which, in my opinion, are the lifeblood of our economy?  Moreover, why in the world wouldn’t Congress want to include funding for small business programs like the SBIR/STTR in a huge spending bill intended to stimulate the economy?

I can tell you personally that it is nothing short of impossible right now to secure funding for a small business, period.  The help seems to be going to Detroit, the banking system, and AIG, as well as to all kinds of random programs in various states across the country (which to be honest, have made me scratch my head a little bit and wonder why we are funding many of them with taxpayer dollars),  but there is little or nothing that small businesses can do right now  to get access to additional funding.  Supposedly there is some provision that did make it into the Stimulus Bill which will free up some funding fo help small businesses refinance debt, but this funding is not yet in effect and most small businesses have yet to get much in the way of details on this particular program.

So, back to the topic of the SBIR/STTR program, which will shortly expire: in this economic climate,  why in the world  isn’t Congress acting to ensure that this doesn’t happen?

Your guess is as good as mine.  However, the bottom line is that the expiration of SBIR/STTR is all but a done deal now.  If this is a concern to you, you have 16 days left to take action and get your voice heard by Congress.  Perhaps there is still time to save this program from extinction.

Rick Shindell has provided a list of instructions for how to get your voice heard on this issue:

Develop a brief message urging an SBIR extension for a year, stating its importance to you, your business and community. Stress that a collapse of SBIR could be catastrophic not just for you, but the entire high tech small business community. Stress that SBIR community is a pillar of America’s innovation and economic stimulus . Do it in your own words because boilerplate language is far less effective.

  1. Call your Senators, both their local and DC offices. http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm
  2. Call your Representative, both their local and DC offices. http://www.house.gov/house/MemberWWW.shtml
  3. Go to their web sites and use the email or webmail links to send them your message.
  4. Contact the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship info@small-bus.senate.gov – 202-224-5175
  5. Contact the House Small Business Committee (202) 225-4038 www.house.gov/smbiz/
  6. Contact the House Committee on Science (202) 225-6375 – http://science.house.gov/contact/contact_generalform.shtml
  7. Go to the President’s web site at http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/
  8. Write to your local newspapers, TV and radio stations.
  9. Work with other small business groups to form a united effort.

The California Biotech Law Blog will continue to keep you posted on any new developments on this issue, and will let you know if there seems to be any movement towards saving the program.

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Status of SBIR Reauthorization Unclear

Written by on Monday, October 20th, 2008

The status of SBIR reauthorization is unclear, according to an update by Rick Shindell of the SBIR Insider..

In his October 3rd newsletter, Rick Shindell had pronounced SBIR reauthorization dead.  Shindell wrote in his email update the following:

Over the last month and through today, October 3, 2008, there has been a flurry of intense efforts in the Senate to get an SBIR Reauthorization bill passed. . . .  Unfortunately the valiant efforts on SBIR reauthorization by the leaders and staff of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship (SBE), John Kerry (D-MA) chair and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), were rebuffed by a few and ultimately could not be brought to the full Senate for a vote, in spite of the fact that the original bill S.3362 was passed unanimously 19-0 in the SBE committee back in July. . . .

In today’s update, however, Shindell appears to have changed his opinion somewhat, stating:

In our October 3rd issue we announced that SBIR reauthorization was dead in the 110th Congress. Although this scenario is still likely, the events of the last few weeks heighten the chances for more action in a “lame-duck” Congress which “may” present an opportunity for additional SBIR reauthorization activity.

So, the question is this: will the current economic climate push the Senate to move forward on this reauthorization effort?

In all honesty, I doubt it.  I have a bit of a bias when it comes to the subject of the SBA, since I started my law firm in a down economy following the sudden closing of my large law firm, and I found it disappointingly difficult to obtain funding through the SBA.  At one bank, I asked about SBA funding, and to my surprise, I was asked what my spouse’s salary was.  When I replied in some shock that I was single, I was told the bank could not assist me.  At another bank, I received the run-around on SBA funding on the basis that law was a “highly risky profession” and I wouldn’t be able to do anything other than practice law if my business failed.   Of all the businesses I could have started, I honestly would never have thought that a law practice would have been placed in a high risk category–particularly when I had already practiced law for a number of years.   Wnile I did eventually obtain a small SBA loan, I never obtained the loan I really needed to build my business. I must admit I became somewhat disenchanted with the whole concept of the SBA.  In my opinion, the whole program would benefit from an overhaul.

So, having disclosed my personal bias on the SBA program, I would argue that the SBA program is exactly where Congress should be focusing its attention in a down economy.

Why do I say this?

Well, in a down economy, there are generally a number of layoffs, and a number of laid off employees will not be able to find the right job.   Rather than sitting home, collecting unemployment, and potentially losing their home to foreclosure, many of the unemployed will contemplate starting a small business.  As anyone who has ever started a small business can tell you, securing adequate financing is often critical to the success of a small business.  So, in my opinion, it makes perfect sense for Congress to focus its efforts on improving the SBA program in a down economy, if it is serious about taking steps to invigorate the economy.

So, how does this relate to SBIR reauthorization?  Well, I would argue that Congress should ensure that the SBIR gets reauthorized for the very same reason–to promote small business and invigorate the economy.

Unfortunately, however, to date I have heard absolutely nothing of any plans by Congress to focus on the SBA as part of its economic relief efforts.  Instead, Congress and the administration are busy taking all kinds of economic steps that have little or nothing to do with small business.  For this reason, I doubt that SBIR reauthorization is going to get much attention by the Senate before the end of the year either.

The California Biotech Law Blog will continue to keep you posted as any new SBIR reauthorization developments occur.

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