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Small Business Ombudsman

Small businesses are a key component to Pennsylvania’s economy. To understand the impact they have on our state’s economy, consider these facts on their importance to the Commonwealth’s workforce and overall economic prosperity:

  • There are nearly 1 million small businesses in Pennsylvania
  • Small businesses employ 2.4 million Pennsylvanians
  • Employees of small businesses account for more than 47% of the workforce
  • Small businesses are involved in every facet of our economy: food production and processing, small and large scale manufacturing, restaurants and food service, auto repair and painting, to name just a few.

Making sure small businesses continue to grow and succeed is important to the Commonwealth and to the DEP.

Concern for small businesses being overburdened by regulatory demands led to the creation of the Small Business Ombudsman Office in 1995. The Ombudsman serves as the primary advocate for small businesses within the Department. Small business owners with a question or issue with DEP can request assistance from the Ombudsman to voice their concerns and interests with the Department.

Any Pennsylvania-based small businesses with 100 or fewer full-time employees can receive free, confidential service from the Ombudsman for issues pertaining to DEP. By law, the Ombudsman may not reveal the identity of any small business who contacts the Office without their permission. All contacts and information are kept strictly confidential.

The Ombudsman can also help identify technical and financial opportunities for energy efficiency and pollution control programs available through various state and federal programs, including grants and loans only available through the Ombudsman Office.

The Ombudsman’s role also includes reviewing proposed regulations to ensure small businesses interests are heard and considered in the regulatory process. The Ombudsman works closely with the Small Business Compliance Advisory Committee, which consists of small business owners, small business advocacy organizations, and representatives of government agencies. The Committee’s role is to ensure small business concerns and interests are represented within DEP when new regulations are proposed.

Energy Efficiency and Pollution Prevention Grants and Loans

The Ombudsman’s office administers two popular programs designed to help small businesses save money and lower operational costs. They are:

Small Business Advantage Grant (SBAG)

Since 2004, more than 2,500 Pennsylvania small businesses have benefited from the Small Business Advantage Grant by upgrading lighting, installing efficient HVAC systems, or investing in equipment designed to eliminate waste or pollution from their operations. The program offers the opportunity for a 50% matching grant (up to a maximum of $9,500) to purchase energy efficient or pollution prevention equipment or adopt processes eliminating waste and pollution.

Pennsylvania-based businesses with 100 or fewer full-time employees are eligible. Eligible applications are considered on a first-come, first served basis until funding is exhausted. The grant is typically offered once per year. Visit the Small Business Advantage Grant website for additional information.

Small Business Pollution Prevention Assistance Account (PPAA) Loan Program

For nearly 20 years, small businesses across Pennsylvania have benefited from the PPAA loan to upgrade and install efficient HVAC systems, upgrade lighting, modernize their wastewater systems, eliminate costly hazardous waste production and fund numerous other projects.

Any small business owner interested in undertaking a project to reduce waste, pollution or energy should consider applying for this low-cost loan. The PPAA loan can help lower expenses, reduce pollution, decrease a business’s waste stream, or use energy more efficiently. These are savings that flow directly to a business’s bottom line.

Pennsylvania-based business with 100 or fewer full-time employees are eligible. Loans can be used to fund 75 percent of the total project cost, up to a maximum of $100,000. The interest rate is capped at 2% and has a maximum term of 10 years. The PPAA loan is open-ended and does not have a close date, however, funds may be limited due to availability. For project eligibility, visit the PPAA Loan website, or contact the Ombudsman’s office.

Samantha Harmon, Small Business Ombudsman
Department of Environmental Protection
Phone: (717) 772-5160, (717) 783-0909
Fax: (717) 705-5401
Email the Ombudsman's Office