Minority Press

Senate Lawmakers Examine Challenges Facing Senior Start-Ups

Witness says ACA will spur entrepreneurship

-- The Affordable Care Act (ACA) may boost the number of self-employed in the U.S. by more than one million people, a key witness told senate lawmakers today at a hearing on senior entrepreneurship.

The testimony came from the head of a leading non-partisan public policy institute during a joint hearing of the Senate Special Committee on Aging and Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.  The hearing was held to examine the opportunities and challenges facing older Americans who start their own businesses.

“Recent studies have shown that highest rate of entrepreneurship in the U.S. has shifted to those in the 55-to-64 age group over the last decade,” said Aging Committee Chairman Bill Nelson (D-FL).  “As their numbers continue to rise, so too does our responsibility to reduce the barriers to entrepreneurship, and ensure seniors receive the support they need to create successful start-ups.”

In response to questioning by Nelson, Greg O' Neill, the director of the National Academy on an Aging Society, told lawmakers that the rate of entrepreneurship has “gone up” in response to health reforms.  O’Neill cited a recent study that estimates the ACA will increase the number of self-employed by 1.5 million.  The study was released last year by the Urban Institute and the Center on Health Insurance Reforms. 

In addition to O’Neill, the panel also took testimony from 68 year-old Conchy Bretos, a Miami entrepreneur who told lawmakers about her decision to start her own business later in life.

“Starting my own business was as much due to life circumstances as it was a career change,” said Bretos.  “An empty nest, the end of a marriage, the loss of a job, I reached midlife with an urgency to leave a legacy, to contribute, to make money and live to the fullest those bonus years that longevity gives us... The most common image of an innovator is that of a youth creating a great idea in a garage, a dormitory, or a makeshift office. In reality these are the exceptions,” she added.

The panel also heard from U.S. Small Business Administration Associate Administrator Tameka Montgomery, SCORE Association CEO W. Kenneth Yancey and Elizabeth Isele, a Maine resident who heads two organizations that provide resources to older Americans who have or wish to start their own business.

Among other things, witnesses discussed the need to increase access to microloans and support programs aimed at helping seniors start their own businesses.  They also noted the need for government agencies to increase coordination among assistance programs and to view seniors as assets and not liabilities.    

“Seniors are not a silver tsunami, they’re a silver lining and believe me they will be yielding golden dividends,” said Isele.

Video of the hearing is available here.