congress

Congress passes changes to PPP

The House and Senate have both passed a bill that would alter the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program. Businesses will now have up to 24 weeks to use forgivable funds, instead of the original eight weeks. The portion of the costs that must be spent on payroll has been reduced from 75 percent to 60 percent. The bill also changes many of the original legislation’s hard deadlines from the end of June to Dec. 31.

Homework gap highlights digital divide as Congress considers more money for broadband

School buses across the country are helping school children as they finish a decidedly unconventional academic year but they aren’t transporting students, they are acting as mobile Wi-Fi units bringing connectivity capability to students who lack broadband service. As the coronavirus pandemic closed schools across the country, many in rural or low-income areas without internet access were left scrambling as classes went online. Equipping buses with Wi-Fi to help accommodate the online learning is a short-term solution to a much bigger problem.

A platform to support science and entrepreneurship through the pandemic and beyond

SSTI’s Innovation Advocacy Council has sent letters to congressional leadership outlining emergency actions needed to support tech- and innovation-driven businesses and recovery-focused programs to leverage American ingenuity for economic stimulus. The letters call for expanding SBA’s technical assistance to startups, leveraging EDA’s Build to Scale program, catalyzing new programs for equity investment and commercialization, and incorporating innovation into any infrastructure initiative.

Innovation on hold for 1-out-of-4 SBIR winners

Federal agencies fail, on average, 24 percent of the time to notify applicant small businesses of award decisions within required deadlines. A small business has a zero percent chance of being able to plan to start an innovation project within six months if they apply to ARPA-E (the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency) or the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, both of which never met the deadline. 

Federal innovation policy at the recess — what has moved in Congress and what may happen in the fall

The 116th Congress has already advanced policies to affect regional innovation economies, and much more is poised to happen once both chambers return in September. In addition to completing the FY 2019 budget (see our Feb. coverage), this session has seen Regional Innovation Strategies legislation pass the House and Senate (albeit in different bills); the Senate working toward an overhaul of the Small Business Administration; and, the start of the FY 2020 budget process.

SSTI letter to Senate supporting SBA innovation programs

As covered in the last Weekly Digest, the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship held a hearing on reauthorizing SBA’s innovation programs. SSTI was invited to add to the hearing’s record, and our letter supporting SBIR/STTR pilot programs, FAST and entrepreneurial development programs is produced, below.

Bipartisan bill would improve Manufacturing USA

Eight U. S. senators introduced a bill last week, endorsed by SSTI and more than two dozen organizations, that would provide performing Manufacturing USA centers with a path for continued federal support, while also better-incorporating the centers into other manufacturing and innovation resources around the country.

Hearing sets stage for Senate to strengthen SBIR

The Senate Small Business Committee held a hearing yesterday on “Reauthorization of the SBA’s Innovation Programs,” which had a heavy emphasis on SBIR/STTR. Earlier in the day, Chairman Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) published a report on business investment, which places many shortcomings of the national economy at the feet of “sharedholder primacy” and calls for policies to incentivize investment by businesses into research and innovation. Among the topics raised during the hearing were making SBIR/STTR permanent, faster contracting, and additional support for innovative companies.

No budget, but lame duck Congress passes innovation bills

While Congress was unable to pass a budget before funding ran out, legislators did advance multiple innovation-related proposals. Here is a quick summary of what the lame duck session did (and did not do) for tech-based economic development.

New legislative activity during the lame duck session:

Congressional elections may shake up federal science, innovation policy

Tuesday’s elections resulted in a Democratic majority in the House, but the changes for the next Congress go far beyond this outcome. Flipping party control means new chairs for every committee in the House; many Senate Republicans in leadership positions are reaching their party’s term limits, yielding new committee seniority; and, retirements and incumbent losses yield further changes. For the bipartisan issues of science and innovation, this shake up will produce new opportunities and uncertainties.

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