A look back at some of the biggest small business stories from the past week, with a focus on Washington.

Federal Reserve staying the course

The central bank last week announced plans to continue its efforts to maintain record-low borrowing costs for the immediate future, noting that hitting an unemployment rate of 6.5 percent or lower would prompt officials to begin considering higher rates.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says the central bank will continue to keep borrowing costs near record lows. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

Senate immigration plan could double high-skilled visas

A bipartisan group of eight senators has nearly completed a comprehensive bill to overhaul the nation’s immigration system. The deal would reportedly double the number of visas for highly skilled, foreign-born workers — a win for the technology sector.

New crowdfunding portals sprouting

Broad platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo are paving the way for a swarm of new niche crowdfunding portals, including sites catering to individuals trying to raise capital for research programs, charities and hyper-local projects.

Health-care uncertainty grips small employers

More than three years after the health-care law was passed, regulators have only recently begun to define its terms, which has left small business owners scrambling for answers. Many don’t yet know how their premiums will be affected or if their current plans will suffice next year.

Obamacare threatens franchise jobs

A new study by the International Franchise Associations predicts the health-care law could cut back or eliminate 3.2 million franchise jobs as owners cut costs and move full-time positions to part-time. The group also said the law will likely hit California’s franchise sector the hardest.

Unemployment claims hit 5-year low

Despite last week’s number ticking up slightly, the average number of unemployment claims over the past month has dropped to its lowest level since February 2008, according to the Labor Department. In the past month, the average sank to 339,750 new claims per week.

Small businesses not bolstering recovery

Small businesses have traditionally created more than half of the nation’s new jobs, but since the economy started recovering in 2008, their contribution has slipped to 33 percent, according to new research published by TD Securities.

Competing budget proposals

House Republicans and Senate Democrats have introduced competing budget proposals, reaffirming their starkly different views on how to trim the federal deficit. Both plans have controversial elements that could effect entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Recovery from cyberattacks unlikely

One in five cyberattacks hit businesseses with no more than 250 employees, according to research cited during a hearing before the House Small Business Subcommittee on Thursday, and most don’t recovery. In fact, nearly 60 percent of small firms victimized by cybercrime go out of business within six months of the attack.

Crowdfunding a cheese shop

Carolyn Stromberg spent nearly a decade working with wine and cheese in restaurants before deciding to open her own shop. To turn that dream into a reality, she turned to Kickstarter, which is now responsible for a large chunk of both her capital and her customer base.

Cannon supplier fears sequestration

One of the country’s last producers of authentic cannons says the sequester could run him out of business if the National Park Service stops purchasing the guns to adorn old battlefields. One of the agency’s spokesmen says the Kentucky company has every reason to worry.

OSB business of the week: Posmetrics: The start-up provides tools to help brick-and-mortar businesses collect customer feedback on iPads.

What are you keeping an eye on this week? Please let us know below.

Follow On Small Business and J.D. Harrison on Twitter.