SBA Tackles Employee Morale

The Small Business Administration has suffered from budget cuts and low morale. Even the head of the agency, Steven Preston, will tell you that.

When I talked to Administrator Preston last July, he spoke of the need to modernize the agency and offer better internal training programs for SBA staffers.

In today's Federal Diary column, Stephen Barr talks to Preston and looks at efforts the agency has taken to boost staff morale.

Two years ago, SBA employees gave their agency such low marks that the agency finished last in a Best Places to Work in the Federal Government index, worse than even the much-maligned Department of Homeland Security, writes Barr.

Preston began his job as top dog at the agency in July 2006, inheriting an agency that he characterizes in Barr's column as "flat on our back." It was overwhelmed by hurricanes Katrina and Rita and unable to keep up with thousands of disaster-relief loan applications for homes and businesses. Allegations of fraud and lax oversight of programs also "swirled around the SBA," writes Barr.

Preston said in the Federal Diary column that he thinks the SBA is "doing more to engage employees" but acknowledges that the current state of staff morale is "not ultimate victory."

At least two lawmakers who often are at loggerheads with SBA's performance are pinning part of the agency's problem on dwindling agency funding

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who chairs the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, and Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, the panel's top Republican, sent a Jan. 8 letter to Jim Nussle, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, pointing out that since the Bush administration has been in office, the SBA's budget has been cut by 31 percent.

They urged the administration to include "sufficient funding" for the SBA's lending and business development programs in the president's fiscal 2009 budget request.

"America's small businesses are the backbone of our nation's economy, having created 60 to 80 percent of net new jobs annually over the last decade and generating more than half of the nation's non-farm private Gross Domestic Product," the legislators wrote.

By Sharon McLoone |  January 14, 2008; 3:08 AM ET
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Comments

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Notice Bush screwing over "the base" here. Not to mention the rest of us. But these were the people who put him in offices, the same folks who use the SBA, so one would think that he would have the decency to fund this, but that would make sense. Bush isn't big on doing the right or sensible thing, and hasn't been since he lied his way into office.

Posted by: Gentry | January 14, 2008 8:37 PM

Katrina was only an excuse. The Agency was under attack from the beginning of Bush's first administration when they tried 70's style management bullying good workers to relocate or lose their jobs and simultaneously pretending to promote programs for women and minorities employing tactics so shallow it was laughable. The shell left is pitiful representation of people retired in place in district offices or people clearly so bitter they are unable to function. I dare anyone to call the Agency on any given day and get through to a warm body.

Posted by: Frank | January 15, 2008 9:08 AM

Bush isn't screwing over "the base" here. In fact, these liberals like Kerry and the wannabe Republican Snowe fail to point out that SBA government garunteed lending has been up every year since Bush took office. That means MORE small businesses being helped with MORE SBA lending.

So some government beaurocrats are upset that their funding has been cut? Overall MORE businesses are getting funding without the help of all those beaurocrats who used to sit around the SBA offices doing squat. The real work is done between the banks and the processing centers, not the district offices.

Please, someone tell Sharon McLoone to do a little research before she carbon copies John Kerry's press releases.

Posted by: Alfred | January 15, 2008 11:53 AM

The Heritage Foundation blog has an alternative view:
http://blog.heritage.org/2008/01/17/sba-does-not-need-a-funding-increase/

Posted by: Buddy | January 17, 2008 6:20 PM

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