EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with Isabella C. Guzman of Small Business Administration – Native News Online | Region & Cash

On Wednesday, the Small Business Administration (SBA) signed a tribal consultation policy, saying the agency will work to reach out to tribes to gather information on how to better serve tribal communities in Indian country. Signing the policy for the SBA was its administrator, Isabella C. Guzman.

She spoke to Local news online on Thursday.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Local news online: Tell us why this tribal consultation is so important, what does it mean for the tribes?

SBA Administrator Isabella C. Guzman: The SBA is so proud to join President Biden in his commitment to better working with Native Americans in tribal governments, and the SBA strives to build the first relationships of these strong nations with any type that seeks working with the federal government.

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We were able to sign an SBA Tribal Consultation Policy to put this ticket into action. I am very pleased to now also have Assistant Administrator for Native American Affairs Jackson Brussy (Navajo) to help me lead this effort.

We’re really focused on making sure our tribal consultations are an important part of our broader tribal work, a commitment we’ve tried to reinforce in the Biden-Harris administration, but also really create opportunities for these exchanges, and we know these are happening to create a strong policy that truly serves our Native American businesses. Specifically when attempting to navigate SBA programs such as funding opportunities, market opportunities, through contracting and market access overseas, and our networks and resources.

I know we can put all our efforts into building those bridges with the entrepreneurs across the Indian country, but building relationships will really take us a lot further.

Local news online: Tell us more about Jackson Brossy’s role. How important is that to the SBA in terms of tribes?

SBA Administrator Isabella C. Guzman: Jackson provides a strong budget to help us increase our programs in Aboriginal communities across the country. In addition, it also has its own funding: grants to support this technical assistance or the specific needs of indigenously owned businesses.

As director of our Office of Native American Affairs, currently the Office of Entrepreneurial Development, he works to build stronger ecosystems in tribal communities.

I was pleased to announce that I will be increasing this position, and now that Jackson is here and reporting directly to me, it’s important to have that independence and that voice to make her a key player in the SBA can be conditions of ecosystem development. So we’re really excited for his leadership and what we can do now with the office to really grow and make a difference.

Local news online: During the COVID-19 pandemic, all businesses in America suffered not only from Native Americans, but certainly from Native Americans. From the PPEs, tell us how successful this program has been for Native Americans.

SBA Administrator Isabella C. Guzman: The SBA had to scale so dramatically to really support PSA while also doing this direct lending to the COVID economic damage disaster loan program and we were so pleased to really 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 the ability to extend our reach through PSA to the communities that didn’t have access to it in the first round. So we doubled the range. In fact, the Government Accountability Office presented a positive report on the SBA and its ability to better reach underserved communities and provide more equity in the PPE program,

In PSA Relief 2021, we have provided over $2.2 billion in PSA loans to Native American, Alaskan and Hawaiian businesses to support over 7,500 Native American-owned businesses. And that’s so important that we were able to make sure we could support these Native American businesses with PSA, and I know there was another $170.6 million in loans to Native American and Alaskan Native American businesses on top of that. We recognize that we need to make progress across all of our loan portfolios and look forward to future consultations and engagements to ensure we can strengthen these as well.

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Levi Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder, editor and publisher of Native News Online. Rickert received the Best Column 2021 Native Media Award in the Print/Online category from the Native American Journalists Association. He is a member of the Advisory Board of the Multicultural Media Correspondents Association. He can be reached at [email protected]

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