Senate confirms Isabel Guzman to lead small biz agency

An inner perimeter anti-scaling fence is around the U.S. Capitol, Tuesday, March 16, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
An inner perimeter anti-scaling fence is around the U.S. Capitol, Tuesday, March 16, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

WASHINGTON – The Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved President Joe Biden's pick to oversee the Small Business Administration, an agency that has seen its portfolio expand in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The vote to confirm Isabel Guzman was 81-17. She is the 18th member of Biden's Cabinet to win Senate confirmation.

Guzman is a former Obama administration SBA official who currently heads California’s Office of the Small Business Advocate. In that role, she oversaw efforts to help that state’s small businesses survive the pandemic.

“I am confident that I can hit the ground running," Guzman told senators in her confirmation hearing.

The Small Business Administration oversees loan programs to help businesses recover from natural disasters, enhances access to capital through loan guarantees and provides training and technical assistance. Guzman said she would work to ensure money gets into the hands of the small businesses hurt the most by the pandemic and the economic crisis through no fault of their own.

“I have every confidence that under Ms. Guzman’s leadership, the SBA will help small business owners hold onto their dreams until our economy comes roaring back,” said Senator Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Schumer noted that pandemic relief programs overseen by the Small Business Administration will dole out more than $1 trillion to the nation’s small businesses, nonprofits and religious institutions. The largest chunk of that funding will come through the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides low-interest loans that are full forgivable if 60% of the loan is spent on payroll and the balance on other qualified expenses.

The Government Accountability Office recently placed emergency small-business loans on its list of programs considered highly vulnerable to fraud, waste or mismanagement.