Goldman Sachs: Small business owners give federal government failing grade

On the eve of President Biden’s State of the Union address, small business owners delivered their own message to the 118th Congress: government programs designed to help small business are failing them, and Congress must take bi-partisan action to reauthorize the U.S. Small Business Administration.

A new Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Voices survey released todayreveals that 70% of small business owners in the U.S. give the federal government a “C or below” grade for effectiveness of its programs, services and tax credits available to small businesses. Additionally, 85% give the government the same bad grade for its efforts to communicate with small business owners about the essential resources and services are available to them. 

Nearly all small businesses (96%) believe the federal government should be doing more to tailor programs and services to better reflect the realities and needs of small businesses.

The fix, according to more than 94% of those surveyed? Congress must join in a bipartisan effort to modernize the Small Business Administration (SBA), the major government agency tasked with ensuring the health and vitality of the nation’s entrepreneurial community.

“During the pandemic, small businesses like mine had to innovate and remain nimble to survive and thrive,” said Natalie Kaddas, President and CEO of Kaddas Enterprises and Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Voices National Leadership Council Vice Chair. “Unfortunately, the historic challenges presented by the pandemic made clear that government programs designed to help small businesses are stuck in the past. Now, we are navigating our new normal with those same outdated tools and yesterday’s programs.”

“I speak for my fellow small business owners in urging Democrats and Republicans in Congress to prioritize our needs by working across the aisle to modernize the Small Business Administration,” Kaddas said.

The survey also found that while small business owners are approaching 2023 with more confidence than in recent years, they still are feeling vulnerable in the face of a volatile economy. Contrary to reports that inflation has been easing its grip on the nation’s economy, small business owners are finding that, for them, it’s worsening: 72% say that inflationary pressures on their business have increased in recent months. Interest rate hikes are also taking a toll, with 61% reporting that the cost of borrowing has negatively affected their small business.

Additionally, the Goldman Sachs survey found that while hiring remains their top challenge, small businesses expect to create jobs in 2023.

  • 59% of small business owners are currently hiring and 82% of those hiring are finding it difficult to recruit qualified candidates for open positions;
  • More than half (51%) expect to create jobs this year;
  • Only 9% have had to lay off workers in the past three months;
  • 60% expect to increase profits in 2023.

“The results of our survey illuminate the very real economic challenges small business owners across the U.S. continue to face as they emerge from the pandemic crisis,” said Joe Wall, national director of Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Voices. “Congress can help by joining in a bipartisan effort to reauthorize the Small Business Administration to modernize government programs that help these business owners navigate our new normal.”

In November 2022, Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Voices launched a grassroots advocacy campaign to encourage lawmakers to reauthorize the SBA for the first time in 23 years. The effort formally kicked off with the delivery of a letter signed by more than 3,000 small business owners from all 50 states calling on Members of Congress to work together on legislation reauthorizing the SBA.

This data is based on a survey of 1,838 Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses participants conducted by Babson College and David Binder Research from January 23 – January 26, 2023. The survey included small business owners from 48 US states.