In the 25 years that U.S. Rep. Nydia Margarita Velázquez (D-NY 7th) has served in Congress, her priority has always been to ensure that small business owners and hardworking Americans have a fair shot at the American Dream.
“Every day, I have the privilege of being a voice for New Yorkers from diverse backgrounds,” Velázquez said. “Interacting with constituents and helping them is the most rewarding part of my job.”
As a Ranking Member of the House Committee on Small Business, Velázquez’s work involves advocating for America’s 30 million small businesses at the federal level. “Small firms make up over 99 percent of all businesses in the United States, and despite the differing political ideologies of my fellow Committee members, we all recognize the centrality of small businesses to our nation’s economy,” she said.
During her time on the Committee, Velázquez has worked to ensure that entrepreneurs can obtain secure financing for their small firms. “We’ve certainly made strides toward making the American Dream of starting a business not just a dream, but a reality,” she said. “We have passed laws strengthening the Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) lending programs, so that entrepreneurs can walk into a bank and have options to secure financing for their venture.”
The Committee also has focused on improving economic growth through the SBA’s program for small companies in Historically Underutilized Business Zones, or HUBZones. “Recently, the President signed into law my bill to strengthen the HUBZone program by helping more counties to qualify and to stay in the program for longer,” Velázquez said.
Pictured left is Congresswoman Velázquez with NASBP Director of Government Relations Larry LeClair. Velázquez worked with NASBP to offer an amendment to the House 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that removes the Miller Act from periodic threshold increases as required under Title 41.
Devoted to safeguarding small businesses, the Committee focuses on putting federal contracting opportunities in the hands of entrepreneurs, especially women and minorities. “It is important that we come up with commonsense legislation that puts the needs of small businesses front and center,” she said.
Protecting Small Construction Companies and Contractors
In July, the House of Representatives passed an amendment introduced by Velázquez to protect small construction companies that rely on surety bond payments from their prime contractors. NASBP, as part of the Construction Industry Procurement Coalition, supported the amendment.
“Since current law requires these dollars to be subject to an inflation adjustment, the result is that fewer projects end up covered under federal bonding requirements,” Velázquez said. “My amendment adds the threshold for construction contracts that must be bonded under the Miller Act as an exclusion from periodic inflation, thus helping small contractors receive the protections they need. I am pleased that my amendment gathered support from NASBP.”
Rebuilding Puerto Rico
On Sept. 20, 2017, when Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico, Velázquez found herself scrambling to make contact with family living on the island.
“Like so many New Yorkers, for me, this is a very personal issue,” she said. “Days after the storm, I joined New York Governor Cuomo in traveling to the island to help in any way we could. We loaded an airplane with recovery supplies and soon after created the Empire State Relief and Recovery Effort for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands—an initiative to streamline emergency supplies to the islands.”
Velázquez’s legislative efforts to rebuild Puerto Rico also include a multitude of letters to federal agencies demanding transparency and an adequate federal emergency response. “The nearly 3.5 million Puerto Ricans are American citizens and deserve the same treatments as those recovering from disaster in Houston and Florida,” Velázquez said.
Moving forward, Velazquez will continue to focus on protecting America’s most vulnerable. “Congress must focus on strengthening, not eliminating, programs that benefit small businesses, immigrants, and hardworking families,” she said. “Instead of cutting funding for SBA programs like the Minority Business Development Agency, I believe Congress must allocate more resources toward ensuring that minority-owned firms receive the financing and contracting opportunities they deserve.”
Velazquez noted that immigrants have proven to be exceptionally successful entrepreneurs, with 10.5 percent of the immigrant workforce owning a business, compared with 9.3 percent of the U.S.-born workforce.
“Since the decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program this summer, 800,000 young people have been forced to wake up every morning with the uncertainty of whether they will be forced to leave our country,” she said, adding that eight percent of Dreamers over the age of 25 have started their own businesses.
“Republicans in Congress must join with Democrats to make protecting immigrants a priority,” Velazquez said. “We also must pass legislation to stabilize health insurance markets, provide adequate disaster assistance, and set a budget that prioritizes small businesses and working families.”
When she’s not traveling between New York City and Washington, D.C., to protect small businesses, Velazquez enjoys cooking, riding her bicycle, and frequenting local neighborhood restaurants and shops. “New York’s small businesses are vibrant and diverse, and I enjoy patronizing them,” she said.