Obama to speed payment to small businesses

Sep 14, 2011, 10:50 a.m.
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks alongside Small Business Administrator Karen Mills (L) at the White House's Rural Economic Forum in Peosta, Iowa, August 16, 2011. REUTERS/Jason Reed

By Steve Holland

RALEIGH, North Carolina (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama, whose poll ratings have been hammered by mounting anxiety over the economy, will announce fresh plans on Wednesday to strengthen small businesses and boost hiring.

White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters traveling with Obama that he would shorten payment times to firms with government contracts to 15 from 30 days.

"The federal government pays small businesses nearly $100 million each year for goods and services," Carney said.

The president was visiting the electoral swing state of North Carolina to promote a new $447 billion bill that he sent on Monday to Congress that was designed to spur hiring through a mixture of tax cuts and additional government spending.

Carney said the move to accelerate government payments would strengthen companies' cashflows "so they can reinvest that money in the economy and drive job growth."

A poll CNN/ORC poll on Tuesday found Obama's disapproval rating had reached a new high of 55 percent while only 36 percent of those surveyed approve of his handling of the economy. His overall approval rating is holding around 43 percent from a 40 percent low, according to Gallup.

That grim reading was reinforced by the Tuesday loss of a previously ultra-safe Democratic House congressional seat in New York City, although Carney played down the implications of the 6 percent victory of Republican Bob Turner in a district held by a Democrat in every election since the 1920s.

"Special elections are often unique and their outcomes do not tell you very much about future regularly scheduled elections," Carney said.

Turner defeated Democrat David Weprin, a state assemblyman, to win the special U.S. House of Representatives election for the seat vacated by former Representative Anthony Weiner, who resigned after a Twitter sex scandal.

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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