WASHINGTON, Oct. 18 (UPI) -- U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told a Senate panel Tuesday that jobs are the nation's top economic priority.
"We have succeeded in preventing the collapse of the financial system, restarting economic growth and creating 2.6 million private sector jobs; however, economic growth remains slow and significant economic challenges remain," Geithner told the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.
Geithner said small businesses have a steeper hill to climb than larger firms. "Small businesses are more concentrated in construction and retail, industries that were at the epicenter of the crisis and have not returned to pre-recession levels, and they export much less than larger businesses," he said.
The primary tool used to help small business so far has been tax relief, he said, pointing to 17 "direct tax breaks that are designed to support small businesses' ability to invest, innovate and expand."
Secondly, he said, through the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the Obama administration has supplied small banks with access to $14 billion, "while modifications to Small Business Administration programs
supported $42 billion in additional lending."
In addition, he said, the administration is helping small businesses "to take advantage of export opportunities" and participate in bidding for government contracts.
"At Treasury alone, 30 percent of our nearly $2.2 billion procurement budget went to small businesses in the 2010 fiscal year," he said.
"These tax cuts would be available to all businesses, but are designed to target smaller firms. Tax relief would be focused on the 98 percent of businesses with less than $5 million in payroll."