SBA ombudsman offers help for small businesses in trouble

08/13/2014 4:51 PM

08/13/2014 5:07 PM

We’re from the federal government, and we’re here to help.

That’s the message delivered Wednesday by Brian Castro, national ombudsman for the Small Business Administration, and a row of regional officials with the Internal Revenue Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration and other federal agencies.

Castro and the others were in Wichita to listen to business complaints — and spread the word that the federal government does have people whose main job is to help small business owners caught up in a regulatory action.

“You have an ally in Washington,” said Castro, a lawyer who has been in the office about a year.

There were more officials than businessmen at the event.

Tim Witsman, president of the Wichita Independent Business Association, said that many of his members are unhappy about one or more federal regulation, but they are afraid to speak out. He identified three of his members’ biggest sore points:

EPA regulations, administered by local governments, that require larger drainage fields in commercial development, which shrinks the land available for buildings, parking and landscaping. Most pollution in the river comes from agriculture, Witsman said. Couldn’t there be more cooperation among all parties to protect water quality, he asked.

The number of background checks required for home health care workers has raised the cost of business too high for small firms.

Stricter regulations for home construction and home financing have pushed many small builders out of the market nationwide.

Deryl Schuster, Kansas banking commissioner, was in the audience and told Castro that the federal Dodd-Frank legislation aimed at shoring up the country’s financial sector has imposed so many burdens on small community banks that they no longer want to make real estate loans.

“Unintended consequences are just killing this country,” he said.

Castro didn’t offer solutions to issues raised, but said he might be able to help with individual cases brought to his agency.

He said his office can serve as a starting point for small business with problems or complaints with a variety of federal agencies, either by handling the problem directly or referring them.

All interactions are confidential, he said.

Reach Dan Voorhis at 316-268-6577 or dvoorhis@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @danvoorhis.

Help for small business

For input when a federal rule is being considered, go to www.sba.gov/advocacy.

For help in dealing with an existing federal rule, go to www.sba.gov/ombudsman.

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