WASHINGTON – With access to capital regularly cited as a top concern among small business owners, today Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, introduced legislation to expand and improve the government's top lending programs for entrepreneurs. The bill is cosponsored by Senators Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill).

"We need to make loans more accessible to small business owners whether they're starting out or looking to expand, in big cities or rural communities," said Kerry. "This legislation will help more entrepreneurs get loans, expand the network of lenders, and simplify the approval process. Our bill will expand the reach of these programs to underserved communities, including minorities and women, so they will have a fair shot at getting the capital they need to achieve the American dream."

"It is essential that the Small Business Administration's core lending programs are upgraded for the 21st century entrepreneur," said Senator Snowe. "The American economy needs a strong and vibrant SBA, and this bill will provide the SBA with the additional tools and resources that are needed to assist our country's many small businesses. This legislation is vital to building on the previous success of the Agency, and will help ensure the success of tomorrow's entrepreneurs."

Last year, more than 107,000 small businesses received $20 billion in 7(a) and 504 loans, creating or retaining an estimated 225,600 jobs. While these programs are effective and contribute to the economy, there is a need to improve them and reach more minorities and veterans, filling a gap left by the private sector. Since 2001, the share of 7(a) loan dollars to minorities and women has been mostly stagnant, and the percent of 7(a) loans to veterans has decreased. Since 2001, the percent of 504 loans has remained stagnant for minorities and has decreased for women and veterans.

The Small Business Lending Reauthorization and Improvements Act expands the Small Business Administration's (SBA) 7(a) and 504 loan and microloan programs which provide start-up and long-term financing that small firms could not receive through normal channels. Specifically, the bill:
  • Authorizes the government to back nearly $100 billion in loans over the next three years, providing enough levels to avoid shut-downs or delays in funding, including up to:

    $60 billion in the 7(a) program
    $27 billion in the 504 program
    $330 million in microloans

  • Creates an Office of Minority Small Business Development to provide leadership at the SBA to make sure the agency's programs and services are reaching more minority entrepreneurs and the government is contracting with more minorities;

  • Establishes a National Preferred Lenders Program to reduce paperwork and streamline the approval process for proficient 7(a) lenders;

  • Allows small businesses that need both working capital under the 7(a) program and fixed asset financing under the 504 program to be eligible to receive maximum loan amounts under both programs so they are not forced to choose between them;

  • Expands access to financing for fixed-assets by allowing Certified Development Companies (CDCs) to operate in more communities; clarifies Congressional intent to preserve the purpose of the CDCs to seek out deals that spur community and economic development; sets a new policy goal of expanding businesses in low-income communities and provides incentives to invest in those areas; and creates accountability measures for CDCs;

  • Creates a Child Care Lending Pilot Program to give not-for-profit child care providers access to SBA's 504 loans for fixed assets so that they can increase capacity to care for more children and improve facilities, safer and suitable for ;

  • Directs the SBA to establish an optional standard for determining if a borrower is a small business and eligible for an SBA loan, making it easier to determine who qualifies; and,

  • Tailors the 7(a) loan program to create a simple and flexible loan product to encourage lending in rural areas.