Government Agencies Offer Aid to Small Businesses Featured
Two of most dealers’ least favorite regulators – the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – say they want to help small businesses. the Federal Trade Commission has launched a new website – ftc.gov/SmallBusiness – with articles, videos, and other information aimed at helping small business owners.. The FTC’s new web page offers specific information to help small businesses protect their networks and their customer data. This includes a new Small Business Computer Security Basics guide, which shares computer security basics to help companies protect their files and devices, train employees to think twice before sharing the business’s account information, and keep their wireless network protected, as well as how to respond to a data breach. It also has information on other cyber threats such as ransomware and phishing schemes targeting small businesses. Meanwhile, the CFPB announced it is looking into ways to gather and use information to identify the financing needs of small businesses, especially those owned by women and minorities. The Bureau is asking for public feedback to help its staff better understand how to bridge the information gap. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act requires the CFPB to collect data about small business lending to help identify needs and opportunities in the market and to facilitate enforcement of fair lending laws. "Small businesses fuel America’s economic engine, create jobs, and nurture communities," said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Yet little is known about how well the lending market serves their financing needs. "This inquiry will help us learn how we can best fulfill our duty to collect and report information on small business lending." The CFPB seeks to define what being a small business even means. There are a number of widely different definitions, based on data such as the number of employees or annual receipts. The Bureau is looking at what institutions lend to small businesses and what products are offered and what types of lending information they use. The CFPB is exploring how to protect the privacy of loan applicants and borrowers, as well as the confidentiality interests of financial institutions in this process. The Bureau is requesting comments from individual businesses, consumer groups, community development organizations, bank and nonbank lenders, regulators, and all other interested parties. The CFPB is also releasing a white paper reviewing the available evidence concerning the small business lending landscape. The Bureau estimates that small businesses access about $1.4 trillion in financing. However, current information on how small businesses engage with credit markets is incomplete or dated and does not paint a full picture of access to financing, particularly for small business owned by women and minorities. For example, current information does not reflect whether there is more or less access to credit for a small business depending on its type or location. Nor does it show to what extent small business lending is shifting from banks to alternative lenders. And it does not indicate whether the tighter credit triggered by the Great Recession still persists.