| Alison Jones, Communications Associate

The Ex-Im Bank Just Gave $675 Million to Taxpayers

The Export-Import Bank reported last week that it returned $675 million to the Treasury Department. The news comes weeks after Congress decided to temporarily reauthorize the Bank’s charter until the end of June 2015, a move met with rare opposition for the Bank as some on Congress sought to close it.

The Bank operates on profits made from loans, fees, and other assistance and consistently returns money to the federal government. In fact, the bank operates at no cost to taxpayers.

The United States is one of 60 countries that support exports through an export-credit agency and ranks sixth in terms of total support among those nations, according to the National Association of Manufacturers and the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Business leaders have voiced their concerns that uncertainty about closing the Ex-Im Bank “creates a real disadvantage for American companies.” One business leader said that Ex-Im financing allowed his small company in rural Texas to start exporting; business abroad now accounts for 50 percent of sales.

While the majority of exporters use private financing, the Ex-Im Bank’s job is to help the businesses that do not. "We're Plan B," the Ex-Im chair Fred Hochberg said in an interview with Marketplace, "We fill a gap when (the) private sector is unable, unwilling, or market conditions are just too risky for them."

The Bank supports many businesses through its direct loan, working capital, loan guarantees, and export insurance programs. Many of the Bank’s deals use private sector banks as a partner, not as a competitor.

Click here to learn more about the Ex-Im Bank

Posted In: Economic Trends

If you stepped into a Target or Walmart on the West Coast the morning of Thursday, October 16, you might have experienced something out of the ordinary. The two retailers (and Business Forward member companies) participated in the The Great ShakeOut, an earthquake simulation that took place at 950,000 businesses nationwide (plus millions more schools and other other organizations worldwide) at 10:16 a.m. local time.

 The event, sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the United States Geological Survey, the American Red Cross, and others, was an opportunity for businesses to prepare for and mitigate the effects of a potential disaster. The drill highlighted the different steps a school, organization, family, or business should take to prepare in case of a natural disaster. The shakeout.org website walks through potential hazards and preventive actions a business should take to avoid the damage to the business and its employees.

 Small businesses also need to consider the risks. While infrequent, earthquakes can threaten employees’ safety, damage structures, and affect the surrounding infrastructure, impacting companies’ ability to do businesses. A 6.0 magnitude earthquake centered in California’s Napa region in August 2014 caused an estimated $1 billion in damages and losses—so it pays to be prepared. FEMA also has many resources on its website for businesses owners, including what they should do before, during, and after the next earthquake.

 Click here to learn more about the Great ShakeOut: http://www.shakeout.org/

 And if you’d like to learn more about what to do to prepare for an earthquake, please watch the video below.

Posted In: Climate Change
| Erik Roos, Policy Analyst

SHOP 101: The Health Insurance Exchange for Small Businesses

On November 15, a new online exchange for the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) will go live on HealthCare.gov. The new portal (at www.healthcare.gov/small-businesses/) will allow small businesses owners to compare and enroll in health insurance plans online. Prior to the launch of the new portal, enrollment was only available through an insurance broker as part of the Affordable Care Act.

On Wednesday, October 15, Business Forward will host a conference call at 11:30 a.m. ET with Rhett Buttle, the Director of Private Sector Engagement at the Department of Health and Human Services. Register here for the call.

In the meantime, here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about SHOP.

What is SHOP?

SHOP, the Small Business Health Options Program, is a small-group health insurance exchange that provides a marketplace for small businesses with less than 50 employees. Plans are classified into four levels of coverage–Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum–with corresponding deductibles, copayments, and limits for out-of-pocket costs. Business owners can also cover themselves with the same health insurance they offer employees.

Businesses are able to offer multiple plans in 14 states: AR, FL, GA, IN, IA, MO, NE, ND, OH, TN, TX, VA, WI, and WY. Employees can then use the SHOP exchange to choose between the different plans offered by the employer.

Can SHOP help small businesses spend less on their health insurance?

One study from the University of Chicago found that the health insurance offered on the SHOP marketplaces is approximately 7 percent cheaper on average than equivalent plans from outside the exchange. For the median health care plan, the difference could amount to $220 in annual savings. In addition, tax credits (see below) are available for some smaller businesses, which may further reduce the cost.  

What businesses qualify to enroll in the SHOP exchange?

Any business with 50 or fewer full-time equivalent (FTE) employees is able to enroll. That metric includes all employees working more than 30 hours a week (full-time), and as well as the number of “equivalent full-time workers” represented by the total hours worked by part-time employees. Businesses with more than 50 FTE employees cannot use SHOP currently, but by January 1, 2016, all SHOP exchanges will be open to businesses with 100 or fewer FTE employees. 

You can use this calculator to find out if you qualify.

Businesses with more than 50 FTEs may be required to provide insurance in 2015 or 2016, depending on their size. Healthcare.gov has more information.

Do I need to offer insurance to all of my employees to participate in SHOP?

Businesses must offer insurance to all employees that work 30 or more hours a week to participate in the SHOP exchange. Additionally, in most states more than 70 percent of employees must then enroll in the business’s health insurance plan (this does not include employees who already have coverage from another employer or the federal government.) The 70-percent requirement is waived during a special enrollment period from November 15 through December 15.

Which states are using the federal SHOP exchange?

Thirty-one states have SHOP exchanges run by the federal government. Business owners in states that are running their own exchanges will be directed to the appropriate portal from Healthcare.gov.

Do businesses have to enroll in November?

No, unlike the individual exchange, small businesses can enroll in a plan at any time. Coverage for businesses that enroll by the 15th of the month will begin the following month. Businesses can currently enroll through an insurance broker with a paper application, until the website is launched.

However, businesses that want to avoid the 70 percent employee take-up requirement must enroll in the SHOP exchanges in the November 15 to December 15 enrollment period.

Can my business continue to use brokers to buy coverage after the new portal is launched?

Yes. Businesses may use a broker to help them purchase insurance on the exchange, so long as the broker has registered with the SHOP marketplace. Brokers may be able to offer additional guidance about what insurance would best fit the business’s needs.

Do businesses have to use the SHOP exchange to qualify for small business tax credits?

Yes. Businesses with 25 FTE employees or fewer, with average wages less than $50,000, can qualify for tax credits up to 50 percent of the business’s share of health insurance premiums. Smaller firms with lower wages receive greater benefits. To get the tax credit, businesses must purchase health insurance through the exchange. The tax credit is non-refundable (except for non-profits) but can be applied to the prior year’s income taxes or any income taxes in the following 20 years.

Posted In: Healthcare reform
| Shumway Marshall, Digital Director

Sign up: Conference call on Healthcare for Small Businesses


In just over a month, HealthCare.gov will get a major upgrade. On November 15, a new online marketplace will go live making it easier for businesses with less than 50 full-time employees to obtain health insurance for their employees.

To learn about how the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) online marketplace can help your business and employees, please join us for a conference call with Rhett Buttle, the Director of Private Sector Engagement at the Department of Health and Human Services. Buttle will also discuss the next steps in the roll out of the Affordable Care Act and answer your questions about SHOP.

What: Conference call on Healthcare for Small Business
Featuring: Rhett Buttle, Director of Private Sector Engagement, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
When: Wednesday, October 15 at 11:30 a.m. ET / 8:30 a.m. PT



If you have a question in advance of Wednesday, you can email it to info@businessfwd.org.

Can't make it? Sign up to receive our recap >

Posted In: Healthcare reform

The U.S. economy added 248,000 jobs in September, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced last Friday. This month’s job gains beat expectations on Wall Street and suggested that August’s lower jobs figures were only a one-month aberration. On Monday, Dr. Heidi Shierholz, the Department of Labor’s Chief Economist, explained what business leaders can take away from the new jobs report in a webinar hosted by Business Forward.

Highlights of the presentation included:

  • The private sector added 236,000 jobs in September, the 55th straight month of private-sector job growth.
  • August’s jobs gain was revised from 142,000 up to 180,000, 38,000 more jobs than the first estimate.
  • Businesses in the professional and business services sector added 81,000 jobs, the largest gain for that sector in 2014 and the largest addition for any industry.
  • The unemployment rate fell to 5.9 percent, the lowest it has been since July 2008.

As October is Hispanic Heritage Month, Dr. Shierholz featured statistics and recent trends for Latino Americans. Latinos experienced much higher levels of unemployment than the general population immediately after the Great Recession of 2008. Dr. Shieholz identified a number of contributing factors: workers tend to be younger, are concentrated in the construction workforce, and have lower levels of education on average. Although Latino workers tend to have lower wages than other racial groups, they are recovering from the recession in terms of unemployment faster than any other group. There has been significant employment growth in most sectors for Latinos, but it has been especially high in construction and education.

When asked about immigration reform and how that may affect the wages of Latino workers, Shierholz respond that if illegal immigrants were given a path to citizenship, their wages, and with those working alongside them, would also improve. It would also allow laborers to avoid working under the table and, in turn, pay more taxes.

Posted In: Jobs