About 100 Omaha area small-business owners aired grievances about the health care law and other issues to Reps. Lee Terry, R-Neb., and Sam Graves, R-Mo., at a forum Friday at Regency Lodge in Omaha.
Terry hosted Graves, chairman of the House Small Business Committee, to answer questions and speak to small-business owners about pending legislation that might help them.
“The (Omaha) metropolitan economy is a small-business-driven economy,” Terry said.
Among the topics raised by small-business people were the Affordable Care Act's effects on businesses and the struggles of doing business with the federal government.
Eileen Marrison, owner of the Two Men and a Truck franchises in Omaha and Lincoln, said the Affordable Care Act forced her to hire a consultant to come in and tell her what to do when it comes to providing her employees health care.
“There is nothing affordable about that,” she said.
Marrison said she had previously paid 50 percent of her employees' health care but decided to cancel group coverage at the end of last year because of the costs. It was that, she said, or sell one of her franchises.
She was especially troubled by the full-time employee determination used by the law, which defines any employee working an average of 30 hours per week as full time. “Why isn't full time 40 hours?” she asked.
Terry said a bill now before the Ways and Means Committee aims to address that. Graves said the goal of congressional Republicans is still to repeal the law, but that some issues, such as the full-time equivalent definition, were so urgent they needed fixing immediately.
“It's beyond fixing, but there are a few things that have to be urgently done right away,” he said. “But it's a mess, folks.”
Jon Driscoll of Hawkeye Vision, a surveillance company that contracts with the federal government, said his business was forced to drop health care as an employee benefit after insurance premiums increased by about 50 percent.
Driscoll also said he has run into problems when doing business with the federal government and is often competing for contracts with Internet companies with no pre-approval. “That's not fair,” he said.
Shari Preister, owner of Cuppycakes Sweet Boutique, which has locations at Nebraska Crossing Outlets in Gretna and at 14242 Fort St., had a success story to share. She noted that her business has expanded from a business that was run out of Preister's home with one employee — herself — to seven employees and two locations within the past two years, with a third location planned for next year.
But that hasn't come without some hardships. She said with all of the regulations that come along with having employees, complying can be a full-time job on its own.
Leon Milobar, district director for the Nebraska District Office of the U.S. Small Business Administration, recommended she ask for guidance from the SBA or hire a professional to help her navigate those issues. “It's gotten so complicated to run a small business, especially if you have employees,” Milobar said.
Both congressmen encouraged small-business owners to reach out to their local offices for help with these issues.
“I don't think a lot of people, especially bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., buildings, really understand the sacrifices and what a business really endures and takes to be successful,” Terry said.