SBA helps people with disabilities access the American Dream

Acting Administrator Pilkerton joins colleagues at the DisabilityIN conference in Chicago.

This week marks the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act – a landmark piece of legislation signed into law on July 26, 1990, which ensures that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. From a small business perspective, people with disabilities make an incredible contribution to our economy – they own businesses and work in every industry. President Trump has proudly noted that the unemployment rate for people with disabilities has reached a historic low.

While tremendous progress has been made over the past 29 years, there is still more to be done to ensure people with disabilities can fully participate in society and our economy. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018, only about 19% of Americans with disabilities were employed – compared to about 66% of the population without a disability. 

For our economy to grow, we need all people with the desire to work to be included in our workforce. Right now, the national unemployment rate is just 3.7% -- nearly the lowest in the past 50 years. Small businesses are always looking for talent, and right now, with competition for workers so strong, they are desperately looking for people to hire.

The White House is committed to bringing more people off the sidelines and into the labor force so that all Americans, especially those who have been marginalized, can find meaningful work and the training needed to fill vacant jobs. 

The U.S. Small Business Administration is working to help people with disabilities become small business owners themselves. Last week I had the pleasure of joining colleagues from the Department of Labor and speaking at the DisabilityIN conference in Chicago, sharing ideas about how people can take advantage of the resources and services available to them through the SBA.

The SBA works with lending partners to guarantee low-interest loans, providing capital for people who may not be able to get conventional loans. Counseling services on things like how to write a business plan, how to grow your customer base, and how expand to new markets or export internationally are available through the SBA and its 68 district offices nationwide, as well as through resource partners like Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers, Veterans Business Outreach Centers and SCORE chapters. The SBA also offers training on getting a small business certified as a government contractor.

Specifically, the SBA has special programs to help service-disabled veterans start their own businesses. The federal government has set a goal to award at least 3% of all federal contracting dollars to service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses each year. Joining the disabled veterans’ business program makes businesses eligible to compete for the program’s set-aside contracts. 

The SBA also provides grants to organizations through its Service-Disabled Veteran Entrepreneurial Training program, which teaches people to start or run a small business. It partners with the Department of Veterans Affairs through the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program, which offers self-employment guidance and on-the-job training.

The SBA participates in an interagency task force formed by the Department of Health and Human Services last year to address chronic unemployment rates for people with disabilities and find ways to improve job opportunities.  
The SBA is also organizing an event in September to educate small businesses in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area about resources for finding and hiring talented people with disabilities. More details to come!
We at the SBA like to say we power the American Dream. The ADA ensures that dream is open to all. Anyone willing to take a risk on starting or growing a small business can find the support they need through the SBA.

About the author