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Meet the former UPS box handler now in charge of the Small Business Administration

Ben Werschkul
DC Producer

On Tuesday, Jovita Carranza was confirmed as the new administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration by a 88-5 vote in the Senate.

She replaces Linda McMahon who left the position in 2019 to chair a pro-Trump super PAC. The former wrestling executive is now known as “Trump’s big money boss.” Chris Pilkerton has been the acting SBA administrator since last April.

Jovita Carranza (L) is replacing Linda McMahon (R) as the Administrator of Small Business Administration. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Before her confirmation, Carranza served as the 44th Treasurer of the United States. In that role her signature – along with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s – adorned U.S. currency. She’d also previously worked as the Deputy Administrator for the Small Business Administration during the George W. Bush administration.

Prior to her government work, Carranza worked at UPS for over 20 years. According to her official biography, she rose to become the highest-ranking Latina in the history of the company. “She started as a part-time, night-shift box handler and worked her way up to become President of Latin America and Caribbean operations” notes the biography.

When President Trump nominated her to head the SBA, he noted “I had a choice” whether to make her a Cabinet official or not (the Small Business Administrator can be in the cabinet at the president’s discretion). He decided to keep the SBA administrator at the cabinet level: “that decision took me how long?  About two seconds to make,” Trump said during a roundtable discussion in April.

U.S. Treasurer Jovita Carranza (L) and President Trump at a roundtable on the economy and tax reform in Minnesota last April. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)

Trump’s loyalty to Carranza has been returned. At the same roundtable, the President said Carranza “liked Trump early on, very early on.” Carranza quickly agreed “Yes, I did.”

A career at UPS

Carranza grew up in Chicago and joined UPS soon after college  in 1976. During her confirmation, she described her first job at the company as “loading shipments onto trucks.”

Gradually, she rose and held a variety of positions in between such as regional manager, workforce planning manager, human resources manager, district shipping hub manager, and national manager. 

Since coming to Washington, Carranza has promoted Trump and his policies to the Latin American community, speaking at events like the League of United Latin American Citizens National Convention last summer and a Hispanic Heritage Month reception at the White House in the fall.

In a statement after she was nominated, Secretary Mnuchin noted that Carranza “played an important role in the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” adding that at the SBA, she will “continue to promote pro-growth economic policies, eliminate job-killing regulations, and fight for the small businesses that are the lifeblood of the American economy.”

Taking the reins

Created in 1953, the Small Business Administration’s mission is about helping small businesses. It does so largely through facilitating and guaranteeing loans to help small businesses grow or weather tough times. The SBA itself is relatively small, asking for $820 million in budget authority for the 2020 fiscal year. The Department of Defense, by contrast, proposed 2020 spending of $750 billion. 

It took Carranza almost nine months to go from being publicly announced as the next administrator to today’s final confirmation. It was more a reflection of Washington’s slow pace than anything else. She earned bipartisan praise during her confirmation hearing in December. Democratic ranking member Ben Cardin (D-MD) said “I look forward to working with Treasurer Carranza to empower America’s entrepreneurs.”

Her confirmation was opposed by two members of the Senate Small Business Committee: Ed Markey (D-Mass) and Cory Booker (D-NJ). 

During her confirmation, she said that “One of my priorities will be to open more doors for women-owned businesses,“ as well as helping “entrepreneurs in disadvantaged communities, including African-American and Latino businesses” and businesses started by veterans.

Her third stated priority was disaster relief. The SBA has a sizable role in supporting local economies after a disaster like a hurricane. For example, the SBA approved more than $3.9 billion in disaster loans to individuals and businesses recovering from Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Ben Werschkul is a producer for Yahoo Finance in Washington DC.

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