U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet: Small businesses drives economy
A few months ago, we had the opportunity to meet with Colorado women who own successful small businesses in El Paso County.
Small businesses, the drivers of our economy, make up almost 98 percent of employers in Colorado. One study ranked Colorado Springs as the best city for women-owned business in the state. Another study placed Boulder, Fort Collins and Denver on a top-10 list of cities in the country for business owners.
We are proud of Colorado’s status as an ideal place to start and grow a small business, but we also heard first-hand from these women and entrepreneurs across the state about the challenges they face. While they are working to create jobs and build our innovation economy, it’s Congress’s job to make sure both owners and their employees have access to the resources they need to succeed.
There are more steps we can take to support the state’s critical small business community. Most recently, we introduced the Small Business Employee Retirement Savings Act with Republican Sen. Richard Burr, of North Carolina, to make it easier for small businesses to set up retirement programs for employees.
First, our bill would increase the tax credit businesses currently receive from $500 to $5,000 to offset the cost of starting up new retirement plans. Our measure would also incentivize automatic enrollment programs by creating a new, $500 credit for small businesses with plans offering that option.
In June, we joined a bipartisan group of senators to sponsor a bill to allow small businesses to resume helping their employees buy individual health insurance. The bill creates health reimbursement arrangements that allow small businesses to help employees purchase health insurance by providing monetary contributions for medical expenses, including premiums.
The IRS had interpreted the Affordable Care Act as barring small businesses from reimbursing their employees for the cost of buying health insurance on the individual market. This has disrupted a practice that small business owners and their employees used for years, and small business owners expressed concern.
Our bill creates a commonsense fix that helps small businesses attract talented employees and has the support of groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association for the Self Employed and the Retail Industry Leaders Association.
We’ve also introduced the Small Business Expensing Act, which increases the amount businesses can write off in a given year for capital equipment. This higher cap would help these businesses free up capital quicker to invest for growth. The amount they could expense had been capped at $25,000. Last year, we fought to increase the limit to $500,000. Our new bill will raise the expensing limit to $1 million, which will save small businesses on their taxes and help them grow and add jobs.
Colorado small business owners and start-ups also have a new avenue to raise capital. In May, the Securities and Exchange Commission allowed equity crowdfunding to begin, which will allow small individuals to invest in businesses online and through social media. Our office worked with Republicans and Democrats in the Senate to pass the law creating this new online platform. Crowdfunding allows companies to raise up to $1,000,000 annually through internet websites registered with the SEC.
One of the greatest strengths of Colorado’s economy is the pioneering spirit of our expansive and diverse small business community, which is responsible for employing hardworking Coloradans and driving innovation. The more than 560,000 entrepreneurs who employ more than 1 million Coloradans across the state are the backbone of our economy. Our state is a great place to start a business, and we need to keep it that way by ensuring our policies and our tax code support our entrepreneurs.
Michael Bennet is a U.S. senator representing Colorado as a Democrat.
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