OFN Board Member Marla Bilonick Testifies at House Small Business Committee Hearing

Dafina Williams

On February 7, the House Small Business Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax, and Capital Access held a hearing to examine the challenges faced by women, minority, veteran, and rural entrepreneurs entitled “Exploring Challenges and Opportunities of Underserved Businesses in the 21st Century.”

The hearing featured testimony from OFN Board Member and Executive Director of Latino Economic Development Center, Marla Bilonick. Bilonick’s testimony highlighted her organization’s experiences with small business owners seeking access to capital. She focused on challenges facing Latinx-led businesses in the Maryland and Washington D.C. areas, while also recommending solutions.

“While the challenges before them [underserved business owners] are countless, those I would characterize as the most significant are lack of access to capital, lack of access to information and educational resources, poor or no credit history, and systemic and institutional racism and sexism,” stated Bilonick. “My request would be that we do not lose sight of the protections for consumers in general as well as minorities.”

Video of the hearing in its entirety can be found here.

Joining Bilonick on the panel were representatives from the Capital Region Minority Supplier Development Council, The Rural Broadband Association, and the American Legion Veterans Employment and Education Division.

Seven Members of the House Small Business Committee attended the hearing:
Subcommittee Chairman Andy Kim (D-NJ), Ranking Member Kevin Hern (R-OK), Rep. Sharice Davids (D-KS), Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL), Rep. Antonio Delgado (D-NY), Rep. Ross Spano (R-FL), and Rep. Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen (R-AS).

Several of the Subcommittee Members’ questions mentioned CDFIs and the federal resources needed to support small businesses as well as small business lenders, who often also face challenges accessing capital needed for lending and providing technical assistance.

  • Rep. Delgado (D-NY) highlighted the great work of CDFIs in his district and asked Bilonick to elaborate on the operating challenges facing CDFIs and offer suggestions for ways the federal government could help overcome those challenges.
  • Rep. Davids (D-KS) inquired about ways the federal government can support both individual lenders, businesses, and the entire small business lending ecosystem.
  • Ranking Member Hern (R-OK) indicated interest in fully funding federal programs that support small business lending.

The Subcommittee’s acknowledgment of the role of CDFIs in helping grow our nation’s small businesses is a great testament to the work of the community development finance industry!

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