Tuesday, October 5, 2021
Edward De Barbieri (Albany; Google Scholar), Supporting Small Businesses in Place, 48 Fordham Urb. L.J. __ (2021):
How do lawmakers support small businesses most deserving of assistance in places most in need of governmental support? As a means for approaching this question, this Essay examines two recent laws — the Paycheck Protection Program and the Opportunity Zone tax incentive. The Paycheck Protection Program was the cornerstone of the CARES Act, designed to keep employees on payroll during the worst parts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Opportunity Zone incentive was implemented to provide economic development stimulus to neighborhoods identified as needing capital investment following the Great Recession.
Both laws purported to support small businesses. However, in practice, both failed to deliver promised capital to the most marginalized business owners in places most in need. In the case of the Paycheck Protection Program, larger businesses, including those with access to capital from other non-governmental sources, were able to access initial rounds of federal funds because of their close relationship with Small Business Administration-certified lenders. In the case of the Opportunity Zone incentive, although there is no official reporting, voluntary data collection indicates that most investments are flowing into large commercial real estate developments instead of small businesses.
There are a number of implications and research questions arising from analysis of these laws. This Essay seeks to draw out additional similarities and differences between these two laws. It seeks to both offer a critique of the Biden Administration’s proposals with respect to economic development interventions supporting small businesses in places in need and suggest improvements to these laws, as well as future ones.