House member wants SBA administrator to resign

The ranking Democrat on the House Small Business Committee, Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.), called for the resignation of Small Business Administration Administrator Hector Barreto yesterday because he has failed to help small businesses in the Gulf Coast region, she said.

At a press conference, Velazquez said that although SBA promised aid to Gulf Coast businesses hit by the season's hurricanes, only 5 percent out of 312,000 applicants have received assistance. She added that in last year’s hurricane season, SBA approved more than twice as many loans.

Barreto “promised help is on the way. They are still waiting for that check,” she said.

"SBA owes it to taxpayers to only provide loans to people who have a reasonable chance to pay the money back,” said Rep. Don Manzullo (R-Ill.), the committee’s chairman, at a separate press conference yesterday. “Otherwise, taxpayers get stuck with the bill and could jeopardize the ability of the SBA to respond to future disasters in a timely manner."

SBA responded to Velazquez’s comments by saying the agency is doing the best it can. "The American public can be assured that the SBA is responding in an unprecedented manner to this terrible disaster,” said Raul Cisneros, SBA spokesman. “To date, the agency has approved almost $1.4 billion in taxpayer-backed, low interest loans to over 20,000 homeowners, renters and businesses in the disaster area.”

The U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce also disagreed with Velazquez. The chamber said that SBA loans grew 150 percent under Barreto’s administration and one-third of the loans, or about $70 billion, went to minority- and women-owned businesses, according to the chamber’s statement.

“We are extremely concerned about the partisan, personal attacks against the good work of the SBA and its administrator,” the chamber said, adding that it is united behind Barreto.

“I am not here to deal with personal issues,” Velazquez said at the press conference. “I am here to tell you that the numbers do not lie.”

She had no suggestions for a replacement.

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