Native American Business Incubators Program Act Awaits President’s Signature

Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-New Mexico), Co-Chair of the Native American Caucus, and U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-New Mexico), vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

An Act to accelerate small business creation and growth passed the House Monday and is headed to President Donald Trump’s desk for his signature. 

The Native American Business Incubators Program Act, which U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-New Mexico), vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, first introduced in the Senate in 2016, will establish and fund business incubators. U.S. Representative Deb Haaland (D-New Mexico), a member of the Pueblo of Laguna, led the bill in the House of Representatives.

The bill introduces a competitive grant program within the U.S. Department of the Interior to establish and fund business incubators that will assist in cultivating Native American-owned small businesses. The incubators will serve as a much-needed resource in Indian Country, where entrepreneurs often face unique start-up challenges such as difficulty accessing business loans, federal restrictions on Tribal lands, and location in highly rural areas.

“Small businesses are the cornerstone of strong economies and communities, but hardworking Native American entrepreneurs often run into difficulties getting their businesses off the ground,” Udall said. “I introduced this legislation to help Native American business owners navigate through red tape, gain access to start-up capital, and set their business up for success.” 

Focused on protecting their communities against the coronavirus pandemic, Indian Country faces new financial hurdles. “…Economic investments and support for Native small businesses are needed now more than ever,” Udall said. “This bill will provide important resources to help businesses in Indian Country build foundations for success and continue powering their communities forward.”

The bill authorizes $5 million annually from fiscal 2020 through 2024 for the Interior Department to award competitive, three-year grants to Tribes, Tribal Colleges or Universities, higher education institutions and nonprofit organizations to establish and operate business incubators that serve Native American communities.

“Native Americans’ entrepreneurial spirit can break cycles of poverty, but for far too long, key economic resources have not been available to Native businesses. When I was running my salsa company, I could only imagine how much easier it would have been if I had access to business incubation support. In the midst of a global pandemic and economic recession, Tribal communities need our help now more than ever. The Native American Business Incubators Program Act will ensure that future business owners in Indian Country can grow their enterprises and build strong vibrant economies. It’s an incredible honor to send this bill to the President’s desk alongside Representatives Cole, Torres, and Young and Senator Tom Udall,” said Haaland, Co-Chair of the Native American Caucus.