Why aren’t more small business owners taking advantage of government help?

Many entrepreneurs often overlook programs and tax incentives designed to lend them a helping hand – to their own detriment

According to a new report, the US government “isn’t doing enough” for small businesses. I’m calling baloney.

“Business owners don’t feel like the programs are all that effective and they also don’t even feel like they have a sense of what’s available, some of which maybe is effective,” said Joe Wall, national director of Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Voices, of the survey of more than 1,800 small businesses in 48 states.

Well, Wall is right. There are many programs, credits and financing opportunities available from the government for small businesses that often get overlooked – by small businesses.

For example, few of my clients are aware of the work opportunity tax credit, a tax incentive that was extended through 2025 that can give businesses up to a $9,600 credit against the taxes they owe if they hire someone out of prison, on welfare, from the military or who has been unemployed for more than six months.

Many small business owners I meet remain ignorant of the thousands of dollars potentially available to them if they take advantage of the employee retention tax credit. And countless others don’t realize that there are credits and deductions available to them for offering paid leave, paying for their employees’ educational expenses and reimbursing for childcare expenses – all benefits that could be used to attract talent in this tight labor market. Even if your accountant isn’t making you aware of these incentives, there are plenty of webinars and other training programs available for free from the IRS.

Some say that the government doesn’t do enough to help find skilled workers. Actually, that’s a problem that many states are already addressing. For example Georgia, Indiana, Minnesota and – frankly – most other states have subsidized workforce training programs and other initiatives that help small businesses afford to get new employees up to speed on their jobs.

And, speaking of the government, while I agree that new laws like the Infrastructure and Investment and Jobs Act and Inflation Reduction Act are potentially budget-busting and may further fuel deficits, the fact is that no small business in the construction or any other related industry will turn their nose at their share of the trillions of dollars coming their way as part of this legislation.

Want more government help for your small business?

The Small Business Administration is offering billions in government-backed loans through its network of lending partners, loans that come with market competitive interest rates and can be used for anything from working capital to buying equipment and property. Most government agencies and departments offer grants to small businesses doing work in areas that are of interest to them. And let’s not forget the $10bn being distributed to states around the country from the Treasury Department in the form of grants, loans and equity investments as part of its state small business credit initiative.

The US agriculture department has a special loan guarantee program for rural businesses.

Trying to make it in retail or in the restaurant industry in the big city? If you do a little digging you’ll find that your local governments offer programs to help you. For example, in my home town of Philadelphia there’s funding available for store and restaurant owners to put in security systems and beautify their storefronts. The city of Denver offers free counseling to startups, Little Rock, Arkansas, has an online portal to help small businesses get and track government bids, Burlington Vermont – population 44,781 – has a community and economic development office, a micro business development program and a women’s small business program all dedicated to helping their local businesses. Nevada just made available $5.3m in capital for its small businesses. The city of Albany recently announced small business grants. New York City just launched a new loan fund for small businesses.

Need help running your business? You can get it for free from the Small Business Administration, Score or a local small business development center. Want to find and get connected to suppliers and customers oversees? The department of commerce’s international trade association will help you do that.

So, really, is the government not doing enough? How much more help do we need?

The fact is that that there are many government resources available for small businesses offering free or low-cost capital, free counseling, generous tax incentives and free training and educational programs. So why aren’t more small business owners taking advantage of these programs?

Yes, the government can do a better job of making us aware that all of these resources exist. However, that doesn’t exonerate us. No one’s going to knock on our door to inform us of these programs. We have to seek this information out ourselves. And for those businesses that do the legwork, they’ll find more help available than they ever knew about.


Gene Marks

The GuardianTramp

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