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Isabel Guzman, Biden’s Pick for SBA Administrator, Would Lead the Agency at a Critical Time

  • Business groups urge Congress to quickly set up a confirmation hearing for Isabel Guzman, President Joe Biden’s choice to head the U.S. Small Business Administration
  • The SBA has taken on a more prominent role during the COVID-19 pandemic as it oversees billions of dollars in emergency relief to small businesses
  • Guzman previously worked at the SBA and has recently overseen California’s business assistance efforts during the pandemic

Dozens of business groups are calling for a speedy confirmation hearing for President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the U.S. Small Business Administration, saying the post has taken on new importance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier this month, Biden announced his nomination of Isabel Casillas Guzman as SBA administrator. Guzman previously worked at the SBA, has overseen emergency and reopening assistance in California during the pandemic, and has experience founding her own businesses.

While the SBA has often been regarded as a lower level Cabinet post, it has gained new significance as millions of small businesses struggle with public health restrictions, diminished revenues, and other challenges brought on by the pandemic. The administrator will oversee billions of dollars in relief measures, including Paycheck Protection Program loans, Economic Injury Disaster Loans, and a grant program to assist arts and cultural organizations.

Guzman graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business in 1992 with a Bachelor of Science degree in economics  and concentration in marketing. Her LinkedIn page states that her areas of expertise are “public and private supply chains, capital markets, international trade, and strategic growth and operations.” It also describes a background that includes leadership roles in state government and management positions at Fortune 500 companies.

From 2009 to 2014, Guzman was an advisor and director of strategic initiatives at ProAmerica Bank, the first California-chartered Latino-formed business bank to be established in Los Angeles in more than 35 years. In this role, she helped offer financial assistance to small and medium-sized businesses.

Guzman served as Deputy Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor in the U.S. Small Business Administration during the Obama Administration. Between 2014 and 2017, she helped small businesses through capital, contracting, and advisory services.

Following her government service, Guzman became a consultant and advisor to the Larta Institute. This organization promotes innovative solutions to develop technologies for a more sustainable planet.

Guzman’s LinkedIn profile says she has co-founded two businesses, including GovContractPros LLC. This business, established in 2018, helps government contractors access and navigate the federal marketplace. This mission is closely aligned with Biden’s plan to increase federal contract opportunities for small businesses.

In 2019, Guzman became the Director of the Office of the Small Business Advocate, a position within the California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development. She has overseen a variety of initiatives to support small businesses during the pandemic, including reopening assistance, a Get Digital CA campaign to help companies improve their online presence, and a $500 million emergency grant program.

The three top leadership positions at the SBA – administrator, chief of staff, and deputy chief of staff – are currently vacant. Jovita Carranza, the outgoing administrator, posted on Twitter shortly before Biden’s inauguration Wednesday that the SBA is “here to assist the small business community every step of the way now and as they reopen and restart their journey back to economic recovery.” Biden has named Tami Perriello, most recently the SBA’s chief financial officer, as interim administrator.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and 82 other business organizations issued a letter to the Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship last Friday urging members to quickly schedule a hearing on Guzman’s confirmation. The organizations say they appreciate the efforts of lawmakers to support small businesses, but that leadership is needed at SBA to coordinate the relief measures approved in the latest stimulus package.

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