Small Business Advocates Worry Over Plans to Nix Census Program

Members of Washington's small business community are expressing concern over legislation that would cut funding for U.S. Census Bureau programs that help paint the portrait of small businesses across the nation.

The House of Representatives recently adopted an amendment to H.R. 3093 that would cut funding for periodic censuses and programs by $10 million. The reduction would kill a much relied-upon survey of business owners and the self-employed. The bill has been sent to the Senate for action.

The Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy, which operates independently within the agency and doesn't necessarily reflect its employer's views, in an Aug. 16 letter (pdf) urged members of a House appropriations subcommittee to leave intact the funding for the data-collection program.

"The [Survey of Business Owners] is a vital resource because it is the only comprehensive, regularly collected survey that provides information on the economic and demographic characteristics of the nation's businesses and business owners," said the SBA branch in the letter to Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.), who chairs the House Appropriations panel overseeing funding for the Commerce and Justice departments as well as for science programs. "The loss of this data will hamper policymakers and researchers' understanding of the many contributions and challenges of our nation's small businesses." The Census Bureau is a division of the Commerce Department.

The SBA office also noted that the survey is "one of the few data sources" that address the number of franchises as well as family- and home-based businesses in the United States.

The National Association of the Self-Employed plans to work with the SBA "to assist them in their efforts to ensure that these funding cuts won't happen," said Kristie Darien, executive director for the Washington-based group's legislative office. "We need that data to show the importance of this demographic within our nation... Data research is the foundation of any research policy or legislation."

By Sharon McLoone |  August 22, 2007; 1:13 PM ET
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