WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, has introduced a bill to aid small businesses in complying with federal regulations. Snowe aims to improve a small business law, the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA), originally intended to aid small firms in understanding and complying with federal regulations, which would save money and personnel time on compliance duties.

Snowe's bill is designed to close loopholes in the original law that the General Accounting Office (GAO) has identified as allowing federal agencies to either ignore or poorly fulfill their duties to provide small businesses with compliance assistance.

"One of the cornerstones of SBREFA is that federal agencies must produce compliance guides - how-to documents to help small businesses understand and meet the requirements of the regulations agencies enforce," said Snowe. "Unfortunately, federal agencies have done a poor job of meeting the basic requirements over the years. The end result is small businesses have been forced to figure out how to comply with these regulations on their own, wasting time and creating confusion that SBREFA was supposed to help prevent."

The Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy has determined that compliance with federal regulations costs small businesses that employ fewer than 20 persons almost $7,000 per employee compared to about $4,500 for companies that employ more than 500 employees. Moreover, few small firms have personnel with the necessary expertise to navigate all of the federal regulations that affect them on a daily basis.

"If an agency cannot describe how to comply with its regulation, how can we expect a small business to figure it out?" Snowe stated. "This was the reason the requirement to provide compliance assistance was included in SBREFA originally, and that reason is just as valid today as it was in 1996 when Congress passed this landmark small business law without opposition in the Senate."

Publication date: 05/09/2005