- By Levi Rickert
On Wednesday the Small Business Administration (SBA) signed a tribal consultation policy that says the agency will work to reach out to tribes to gather input into how to better serve tribal communities in Indian Country. Signing the policy for the SBA was its Administrator Isabella C. Guzman.
She spoke with Native News Online on Thursday.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Native News Online: Tell us why this is so important, this tribal consultation, what does it mean for tribes?
SBA Administrator Isabella C. Guzman: The SBA is so proud to join President Biden in his commitment to better engage with Native American people in tribal governments, and the SBA is committed to establishing those strong nations' initial relationships with every type that seeks to engage with the federal government.
We were able to do a signing for an SBA Tribal Consultation Policy to implement this ticket into action. I’m so pleased that I now have the Associate Administrator of Native American Affairs Jackson Brussy (Navajo) as well, to be able to help me lead in this effort.
We really are focused on making sure that our tribal consultations are an important component of our broader tribal outreach, which is an engagement which we've tried to step up in the Biden-Harris administration, but also really to create opportunities for that exchange that we know needs to happen for us to create a strong policy that really serves our Native American-owned businesses. In particular, as they try to navigate SBA programs like funding opportunities, market opportunities, through contracting and market access abroad, as well as our networks and resources.
I know that we can do all of our efforts to build those bridges to the entrepreneurs across Indian Country, but establishing relationships will really take us so much further.
Native News Online: Tell us more about Jackson Brossy’s role. How important is that to the SBA, as it relates to tribes?
SBA Administrator Isabella C. Guzman: Jackson deploys a strong budget to help us amplify our programs in the Native communities across the country. In addition to that, he has his own funding as well: grants to support that technical assistance or the specific needs of native owned businesses.
As the lead of our Office of Native American Affairs, which has currently been into the Office of Entrepreneurial Development, he works in trying to build stronger ecosystems in tribal communities.
I was pleased to announce that I will be elevating that office and now that Jackson is here and that he will be reporting directly to me, It is important to have that independence and that voice, so they can be an important player in the SBA in terms of ecosystem development. So we're really excited about his leadership and what we can do now with the office to really grow and impact.
Native News Online: During the COVID, 19 pandemic, all businesses in America suffered not just Native, but certainly among Native Americans. Tell us about the PPEs, how successful that program was for Native Americans.
SBA Administrator Isabella C. Guzman: The SBA had to scale so dramatically to really support PPEs, as well as at the same time, that direct lending to the COVID economic injury disaster loan program, and we were so pleased to truly see that impact in Tribal communities as well.
I know that one of the most important things for the Biden-Harris administration was that we had an opportunity to expand our reach through PPEs to those communities who were not able to access it during the first round. So we doubled down on outreach. In fact, the Government Accountability Office provided a positive report on the SBA and its ability to better reach underserved communities and provide more equity in the PPE program,
In PPE relief in 2021, we provided over $2.2 billion in PPE loans to American Indian, Alaskan Native, and Native Hawaiian businesses to support over 7,500 Native-owned businesses. And that's so important that we were able to make sure that we could support those Native owned businesses with PPE and I know on top of that, there was another $170 6 million in loans to American Indian and Alaskan Native businesses. We know that we need to make progress across all of our loan portfolios and look forward to future consultations and engagement to make sure that we can strengthen those as well.
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