Bipartisan Bill Seeks to Provide AI Tools, Training For Small Businesses

Under the new bill, the Commerce Department would be tasked with creating AI resources for small businesses

Ben Wodecki, Jr. Editor

June 24, 2024

3 Min Read
US Capitol building at sunset, Washington DC
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A new bipartisan bill aims to empower small businesses with AI tools and training resources to augment their operations.

Introduced by Senators Jerry Moran and Maria Cantwell, the Small Business Artificial Intelligence Training and Toolkit Act would force the Commerce Department to work with the Small Business Administration (SBA) to create AI training resources that would help teach businesses how to leverage AI.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which resides under the Commerce Department, already provides technical assistance to small businesses on how to use technologies.

This new bill mandates that AI-related resources and training tools be made more widely available.

Training resources created under the bill would teach small businesses how to use AI to improve financial management, supply chain management and marketing. The resources would be made available through partners, including Women’s Business Centers and Veteran Business Opportunity Centers

The AI training materials need to be updated every two years. Additionally, the Commerce Secretary would be required to biannually report to Congress on the effectiveness of its AI training resources.

The Commerce Secretary would also be encouraged to establish a grant program for small businesses offering AI training. The bill would permit private sector and philanthropic contributions to fund the grants, with at least 25% earmarked for companies in rural or underserved areas.

Related:Tech Lobbying Group Launches Campaign for AI Fair Use Rights

“In rural communities where capital resources and workforce are limited, AI has tremendous potential to fill the gaps and help small businesses with finance management, marketing, supply chain management and much more,” said Senator Moran. “This legislation would help small businesses utilize AI to meet their needs, expand and innovate. Combining these tools with a trained workforce will help make certain the U.S. is utilizing AI to grow our economy and bolster our world-class businesses.”

The senators referenced figures from the Bipartisan Policy Center and Morning Consult, indicating that 83% of U.S. small business owners who have used AI find it beneficial for their business. Reported uses of AI included automating social media, aiding with accounting and streamlining various tasks.

“Small businesses are the foundation of the U.S. economy, making up 99% of all businesses,” said Senator Cantwell. “They drive economic growth and innovation. It is essential that all American entrepreneurs, especially our small businesses, have access to AI training and reskilling in the 21st-century marketplace. This bill gives small businesses a boost with new tools to thrive as we step into this innovative era.”

Related:Senate AI Committee Proposes $32B Annual Funding for AI

The bill has secured support from groups including the Association of Women’s Business Centers, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and the U.S. Black Chambers (USBC), among others.

“The [bill] is an essential initiative that will strengthen Black-owned businesses and promote Black enterprise,” said Ron Busby, USBC’s CEO. “By directing resources and training to underserved communities, this Act helps level the playing field, giving Black entrepreneurs the tools they need to access capital, enhance their business planning and achieve sustained growth.”
The bill is the second piece of AI-related AI legislation the senators have jointly introduced in the past month. The NSF AI Education Act, introduced in May, would authorize the National Science Foundation (NSF) to award AI-related graduate scholarships covering uses of AI in agriculture, education and advanced manufacturing, among other areas.

About the Author(s)

Ben Wodecki

Jr. Editor

Ben Wodecki is the Jr. Editor of AI Business, covering a wide range of AI content. Ben joined the team in March 2021 as assistant editor and was promoted to Jr. Editor. He has written for The New Statesman, Intellectual Property Magazine, and The Telegraph India, among others. He holds an MSc in Digital Journalism from Middlesex University.

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