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Burr bill would restructure SBA, Commerce and Labor

By Matt Evans
The Business Journal
January 6, 2014

Sen. Richard Burr says a bill he has put forward to merge the departments of Commerce and Labor and restructure the Small Business Administration would eliminate duplicated efforts and save the federal government money.

McClatchy reports that Burr introduced legislation in December that would join Labor and Commerce with the purpose of combining programs with similar missions such as job training and economic development. The new agency would be able to save on administrative functions, and Burr's bill would also eliminate or reduce funding for seven specific programs including one that provides job training grants to community colleges and one that helps find jobs for former convicts.

Burr, who is from Winston-Salem, would also house the SBA within the new "Department of Commerce and the Workforce" and, in total, streamline functions that cost taxpayers "staggering amounts of money every year," he said.

But the SBA restructuring has drawn criticism from the American Small Business League, which says the move would cripple the agency, which helps small businesses secure financing by backing loans issued by banks. That group said Commerce has always focused on big businesses, and putting the SBA under such an agency would undermine its mission.

A Burr spokesperson denied that, saying the bill would actually elevate the interests of the SBA in the executive branch and make it more effective.

Burr's bill has two Republican co-sponsors and is currently before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Like all bills in Congress it faces long odds against passage, but President Obama also endorsed combining the SBA with the Commerce Department during the last campaign.