Get Started: Shutdown puts brakes on small business activity

By JOYCE M. ROSENBERGFeaturesAssociated Press

The federal government shutdown appears to have lasted one business day, long enough to give many small companies a taste of how much a longer disruption could affect them.

The Small Business Administration largely shut down except for its disaster relief operations. That means small business loans weren't processed, nor were requests by companies to be certified to participate in federal contracting programs like the 8(a) and HUBZone programs.

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While visitors to www.sba.gov were able to use the website, a notice warned, "the information on this website may not be up to date, the transactions submitted via the website may not be processed, and the agency may not be able to respond to inquiries" until funding is restored. Phone calls to the SBA's New York offices during regular business hours Monday went unanswered.

Business owners could still apply for loans — the process begins with a bank application. Banks were taking applications, which during an extended shutdown would go into a queue, creating a backlog for when SBA employees return to work. In past shutdowns, the backlog meant delays in loan approvals.

When the government shuts down, small businesses hoping to be paid for work they've done for the government must wait until agency employees get back to the office. Not only does lack of funding mean federal workers aren't being paid, it also means contract payments cannot be disbursed.

Many companies with contracts with the government had to stop working Monday because they received "stop work" orders from agencies. The government won't pay for non-essential work done during a shutdown and/or work whose funding depends on the bill that stalled in Congress. The law firm Fisher Phillips, in a posting on its website Friday, said companies that did not receive such an order should keep on working.

Federal websites that advertise contracting opportunities were available Monday, but owners hoping to contact employees about specific opportunities, or to check on the progress of a contract or bid, were likely to have their emails or phone calls go unanswered.

Also unreachable: the government's online system for employers to verify the eligibility of individuals to work in the U.S. A notice on the system's website, www.uscis.gov/e-verify , said employers couldn't able to access their accounts during the shutdown.

And any government office or agency that performs non-essential or non-emergency services was likely to be unavailable. Agencies like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or National Labor Relations Board were unlikely to work on any cases. And Department of Labor divisions like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration were unlikely to be carrying out investigations except in situations where employees are at risk, according to Fisher Phillips.

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Follow Joyce Rosenberg at www.twitter.com/JoyceMRosenberg . Her work can be found here: https://apnews.com/search/joyce%20rosenberg