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Running a small business is rewarding, but challenging. Washington, D.C. should not be making it even more difficult. Throughout 2018, I worked to help make small business ownership a little easier.

In June, the Department of Labor announced a rule that makes it easier for small businesses to join together to create Small Business Health Plans. This lets small businesses pool together to provide health insurance and helps to provide negotiating power that small businesses would not have on their own. I have championed this idea for nearly 20 years and previously introduced legislation in the Senate similar to the Department of Labor’s rule. I also held a hearing on the proposed rule earlier in the year to discuss how the change could help small businesses lower the costs of providing insurance to their employees. This rule is a big win for small businesses and employees alike.

The Senate held several hearings throughout the year focused on helping small businesses; an important one was about the opportunity zone program included in tax reform. An expert at the hearing explained how opportunity zones were designed to benefit small businesses. He said this program can help provide a lifeline to entrepreneurs in underserved and overlooked areas in our country – including in Wyoming, where we have 25 opportunity zones.

In August, the president signed the National Defense Authorization Act into law, which included my bipartisan legislation with Maryland Senator Ben Cardin to accelerate payments to small contractors doing business with the federal government. Wyoming has many small businesses that contract with the Defense Department, and ensuring that they receive their payments promptly for their work seems like a common sense decision. As a former small business owner, I know that receiving timely payments on a contract can make a world of difference.

Small business lending is an important pillar for community banks. In May, Congress passed the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act which rolls back cumbersome regulations intended to regulate Wall Street after the 2008 financial crisis, but adversely affected our smallest lenders. This law improves access to capital, and mortgage credit for community banks and credit unions, which foster economic growth on Main Street.

Every year, I host an Inventors Conference and co-host the GRO-Biz Conference in Wyoming. At the Inventors Conference, small business owners and inventors come to learn about patent processes, business planning, funding options and marketing. GRO-Biz helps business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs learn about government contracting and different methods of business management. These events are near and dear to my heart, and I invite you to attend an upcoming conference.

Now is the time to empower our nation’s entrepreneurs because they have the expertise, energy and initiative to lead our economic growth and lead us on a path of recovery. As a former small business owner and senior member of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, I will continue my efforts to promote small businesses and look after their interests in the years to come.