Small Businesses Need Confidence Boost

Small and midsize U.S. businesses expect to hire more employees in the next six months and perform better in 2015—except in Connecticut and a handful of other states—according to the latest Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp. and Pepperdine Private Capital Access (PCA) Index.

The news is all the more reason for state lawmakers to ask what they can do this year to support Connecticut’s small businesses.

Small businesses are a big part of Connecticut’s economy, comprising more than 95% of all employers and nearly half of the private-sector workforce.

Small Business Express

On Tuesday, March 3, the Commerce Committee will hear HB 6827, which makes certain changes to the Small Business Express Program:

  • Eliminating certain employment requirements and eliminating the requirement that the business must be in existence for one year 
  • Revising the loan fund component of the program so that it may work in conjunction with the private sector lendors and 10% of the program funding can be dedicated to it
  • Changing, to $1,000, the smallest grant the program may award; previously the threshold was $10,000
  • Allowing DECD to give priority funding to municipalities with fewer than 70,000 people

Contact CBIA’s Jennifer Herz at 860.244.1921 or jennifer.herz@cbia.com with any comments or concerns on these proposed changes. 

Issue-specific

The Commerce Committee also is considering several issue-specific bills that could impact small employers, including SB 819 which would create a “Small Business Saturday” in Connecticut, inspired by the America Express Small Business Saturday that follows Thanksgiving each year.

Other Commerce Committee bills focus on diversity:

  • SB 542 creates a liaison within the Department of Economic & Community Development (DECD) to reach out to women, minority and diverse business enterprises  
  • HB 5979 provides more Small Business Express program funding to minority, women and veteran owned businesses

One proposal is aimed at local operations and small businesses. HB 6509 provides financial assistance to businesses disrupted by prolonged construction projects

And some measures touch on new business and entrepreneurs:

  • SB 697 provides a one-time offer to new businesses owners in the state exempting them from fees and taxes for the first two years of operation
  • HB 5664 implements the “Learn Here, Live Here” program to provide students with financial incentives to buy a home in Connecticut after graduation

Healthcare Costs

Healthcare costs are a major concern to small businesses. Yet state lawmakers each year increase costs by adding new health benefit mandates.

Health benefit mandates are procedures and services the state requires insurers to include in the plans they offer in the state. Small businesses bear the brunt of the costs because the mandates apply to the fully insured plans most of them purchase (opposed to self-insured plans often used by larger employers). 

While each mandate helps a particular group, Connecticut has more than 50 mandates and all together they create higher premiums. So far this session, about 13 new health benefit mandates have been proposed and some are already approved by the Insurance Committee

The committee also is considering two bills (SB 753 and SB 754) dealing with an assessment  on all small group and individual insurance plans by Access Health--the state’s exchange established under the Affordable Care Act. 

While it’s important for Access Health to be self-sufficient, the exchange is charging 1.35% of premium to fund its operations--totaling about $40 million. The assessment is being charged to all small employers and individuals that purchase health insurance regardless of whether they use the state’s exchange.

Paid Sick Leave

Most small business employers work very hard to accommodate their workers’ needs for time off and also meet the needs of the company. But the Labor Committee is proposing to expand the state’s costly paid sick leave mandate to thousands of small businesses across Connecticut.

HB 6784 would impact nonmanufacturing businesses with 10 or more employees. Currently the law applies to nonmanufacturers with 50 or more employees. Under HB 6784, the mandate also would apply to all hourly worker job titles, and temporary workers. It would allow employees to use sick time to care for extended family members, and increases from five to seven, days of sick leave that can be accumulated.

One-size-fits-all government mandates are costly, burdensome, and ignore today’s more flexible workplaces.

Cut Red Tape

Another positive measure is SB 384, which would provide flexibility to businesses that, because of the nature of their operations, would prefer to comply with regulatory filing requirements via traditional means.

The Government Administration and Elections Committee bill would allow agencies to waive electronic filing requirements on businesses and individuals without access to a computer.

Discussion