An enforcement action from a federal agency can feel like a crushing blow to a small business owner. Federal agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can seem like huge, faceless organizations.
And what if one of those federal agencies levies a fine or enforcement action that a small business owner believes is unjustified? Those agencies are complex, and aren’t always user-friendly. It can be difficult to find an appeal process or even a person to talk to.
Fortunately, there is someone within the federal government whose sole job is to act as an interface between small businesses and federal agencies.
“The Office of the National Ombudsman (housed within the Small Business Administration) assists small businesses when they feel that they have had an experience with a federal agency such as an unfair or unjust application of enforcement acts,” said Esther Vassar, the SBA’s National Ombudsman.
Businesses are able to contact the SBA’s National Ombudsman’s office online, with a toll-free number, or in person at any SBA office. When the office receives a complaint from a business, it contacts the appropriate government agency and works to resolve the situation, Vassar said.
“We make no promises that the answer will be what you want,” she said. “But we do make a promise that you will get a response from us and 90 percent of the time you will get a response from the agency.”
For more information, visit www.SBA.gov/ombudsman, or call 888-REG-FAIR.
The Milwaukee office of the SBA is located at 310 W. Wisconsin Ave., Room 400, in downtown Milwaukee.