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Tuesday, 02 June 2020 21:34

ASA’s May Webinar Wednesday Explains How the SBA Works for Small Businesses

Written by
Stefanie Baker Wehagen Stefanie Baker Wehagen

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During ASA’s monthly Webinar Wednesday on May 20, “How the SBA Works for You” was presented by Stefanie Baker Wehagen, national ombudsman and assistant administrator for regulatory enforcement, Office of the National Ombudsman (ONO), U.S. Small Business Administration.

Wehagen provided an overview of the ONO and its mission, how it can assist small businesses and how small businesses can engage with the ONO.

 

Addressing collision and automotive repair shop owners, she stressed, “The ONO is here to help small business owners.”

 

The webinar began with Tony Molla, ASA’s vice president of industry relations, welcoming attendees and introducing Wehagen, who explained the ONO's mission is to assist small businesses when they experience excessive or unfair federal regulatory enforcement actions, such as repetitive audits or investigations, excessive fines, penalties, threats, retaliation or other unfair enforcement action by a federal agency.

 

“Our services run the gamut from dealing with government agencies, including the SBA, to a broad spectrum of issues we can assist with,” Wehagen said. “We want people to have confidence in our process and know that if you come to us, you won’t be retaliated against; you’ll have the opportunity to be heard.

 

"I can’t guarantee that you’ll get the outcome you prefer, but you will receive fair consideration. We exist to be an advocate for you and to level the playing field to ensure you’re being fairly heard and treated.”

 

The ONO is a small office with six people on staff, but they leverage their outreach through other agencies.

 

Once the ONO receives a comment from a small business or trade association, they initiate dialogue with the federal agency regarding the complaint. The agency is asked to respond within 30 days, and the result will then be communicated to the small business owner or trade association. Trends among regions and agencies are noted in the ONO’s Annual Report to Congress, where agencies are also rated.

 

Wehagen then shared some success stories, demonstrating the ONO’s effectiveness in satisfactorily resolving past complaints against the EPA and OSHA.

 

The ONO holds hearings and roundtables in each of the SBA’s 10 regions as forums to voice concerns about unfair enforcement actions and excessive regulations impacting small businesses.

 

“Concerns raised are escalated to the appropriate federal agency for a high-level fairness review,” Wehagen said. “The meetings are all public and open for anyone to participate. The goal is to make things transparent to the public.”

 

Small businesses and trade associations representing small businesses should contact the national ombudsman for issues such as pre-bid practices or policies that unfairly exclude small contractors, delayed invoice payments, contract implementation issues, SBA certification processes, excessive penalties and fines and unfair actions taken against small businesses.


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