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WASHINGTON — The Senate’s small business and entrepreneurship committee approved bipartisan legislation to create a permanent position for the Associate Administrator at the Office of Native American Affairs (ONAA) within the Small Business Administration (SBA).

The Native American Entrepreneurial Opportunity Act, sponsored by Senator John Hickenlooper (D-CO) and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), was one of 11 bills approved by an 18-1 vote at a committee hearing last week. The bill also received support from Sens. Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) and Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), the only American Indian serving in the U.S. Senate.   

The bill would establish the Office of Native American Affairs by law and require it be led by an Associate Administrator with a direct report to the SBA Administrator. The ONAA currently operates as an administratively established unit within the SBA, with Jackson Brossy (Diné) serving as its associate administrator.  

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“Making this position permanent will mean the unique economic and entrepreneurial needs of our community – and government-to-government consultation – will always be a priority at SBA,” Chris James, CEO of The National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development and a former SBA Associate Administrator official himself, said in a statement. “[It would] ensure that we always have a seat at the table in an agency that plays a critical role in boosting our economy.”

The legislation now moves to the full Senate for consideration.