WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Wednesday is ordering new practices meant to help small firms by speeding up payments for federal contractors, cutting paperwork and easing access to loans and tax credits.
The actions come as Obama tries to fight off charges from Republicans that his latest tax plan would hurt small businesses. Obama called on lawmakers this week to extend only the portion of the Bush-era tax breaks that cover household incomes of less than $250,000 a year, allowing the cuts on higher earnings to expire — including, according to GOP critics, many small-business owners.
Under Wednesday’s round of executive actions, Obama is directing agencies to make contract payments on an accelerated timeline to all prime contractors. He expects those businesses will then speed up payments to their small-business subcontractors, said Jeff Zients, Obama’s acting budget director.
The administration is also revamping a small-dollar loan program by raising the maximum loan amount from $250,000 to $350,000; doing away with five “unnecessary forms” for contractors who apply for surety bonds; and similarly cutting paperwork for the Small Business Administration’s Disaster Loan Program.
Obama also is asking Congress to raise the amount of investment small businesses can claim as expenses to offset their taxes next year, according to White House officials.
“These will make a big difference for small businesses,” said Gene Sperling, director of Obama’s National Economic Council.
But Republicans point out that Obama has announced similar steps before, tweaking some of the same programs over the past year to speed up payments and cut red tape.
Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Republican House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, argued that the threat of expiration of the Bush-era tax breaks eclipses the effects of such measures.
“Small businesses that see a big Obama tax increase coming in five months are going to take no relief from this series of small, recycled policy tweaks,” Buck said.
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