Federal spending bill includes provisions to assist Hawaiʻi small businesses and tourism
The $1.7 trillion Fiscal Year 2023 Omnibus Appropriations bill recently passed by Congress includes several initiatives to strengthen Hawaiʻi’s dominant tourism and small business economies and assist Hawai’i workers with their retirements, according to US Rep. Ed Case (D-HI).
“This measure will strengthen our top-generating tourism sector, promote small business development and assist in economic diversification as our state’s economy continues to recover from the lingering effects of COVID 19,” said Rep. Case, a member of the US House Committee on Appropriations that is responsible for all federal discretionary spending.
The omnibus bill, which is expected to be signed by President Biden, includes the Visit America Act, a top initiative of the national travel and tourism industry.
The act would mandate a coordinated national effort to stabilize and recover one of the country’s primary industries, and create the first Assistant Secretary of Travel and Tourism within the US Department of Commerce.
Rep. Case, a member of the Congressional Travel and Tourism Caucus, and like-minded colleagues introduced and advanced the act.
The Visit America Act would:
- Express the sense of Congress that the federal government must work with the industry and other stakeholders toward a visitation goal of 116 million annual travelers to the United States by 2028, an increase of some 25% over pre-COVID numbers.
- Establish within the Department of Commerce an Assistant Secretary for Travel and Tourism appointed by the President with responsibilities to set and pursue international visitation goals, ensure public and private sector coordination on travel and tourism, set visa processing goals with the departments of State and Homeland Security, promote travel exports abroad and more.
- Require the Department of Commerce to create a 10-year Travel and Tourism Strategy.
- Authorize the creation of a US Travel and Tourism Advisory Board.
The federal spending measure also includes retirement provisions that will provide millions of workers and retirees with significant improvements to the nation’s private retirement system.
Rep. Case said the provision allows employers to contribute matching payments to retirement accounts to match an employee’s student loan payments, and it will give part-time workers better access to retirement benefits by allowing more individuals to join their companies’ 401(k) plan.
The bill includes incentives for small businesses to set up retirement savings plans for their workers, encourages individuals to set aside long-term savings and makes it easier for annuities to be an income option for retirees.
The bill provides $1.2 billion for the Small Business Administration, which delivers various federal programs to assist small businesses, an increase of $188 million above the FY 2022 funding level.
This includes $320 million, a $30 million increase, for Entrepreneurial Development Programs that provide small businesses with quality training, counseling and access to resources.
The measure includes several of Case’s requests for funding for federal programs and services important for businesses in the State of Hawai‘i, including:
- $25 million for the Native American Community Development Financial Institution Assistance Program
- $4 million for the Historically Underutilized Business Zones Program
- $27 million for the Women’s Business Centers Program
- $140 million for Small Business Development Centers
- $20 million for the State Trade Expansion Program
- $10 million for the Regional Innovation Clusters Program
- $41 million for the Microloan Technical Assistance Program.
The bill also provided $324 million for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), an increase of $29 million above the FY 2022 enacted levels. CDFIs are specialized community-based financial institutions that promote economic development by providing financial products and services to people and communities underserved by traditional financial institutions, particularly in low-income and minority communities.
The bill includes $70 million for the Minority Business Development Agency with $5 million specifically set aside for Native American Business Development Program that awards grants to Tribes and American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian populations to address barriers to economic development.
Finally, the bill continues the military contracting preference for Native American tribes and Native Hawaiian Organizations.
A detailed summary of the FY 2023 omnibus is available here.