WASHINGTON – Senators Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, introduced legislation today aimed at increasing access to capital for small businesses and entrepreneurs.

The Expanding Access to Capital for Entrepreneurial Leaders (EXCEL) Act would modify the Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) program to raise the amount of SBIC debt the Small Business Administration (SBA) can guarantee from $3 billion to $4 billion. It would also increase from $225 million to $350 million the amount of SBA guaranteed debt a team of SBIC fund managers who operate several funds can borrow.

These two provisions are part of the Startup America Legislative Agenda that President Barack Obama sent to Congress on January 31, 2012. On March 22, Chair Landrieu led the committee in a roundtable with federal officials, SBIC fund managers, and companies to discuss modifications to the SBIC program.

“When I talk to small business owners in Louisiana and across the country, one of the things I hear most is that access to capital is one of the most difficult challenges they face,” Sen. Landrieu said. “One common sense way to solve this problem is to make these necessary changes to the already-successful SBIC program, which has helped companies like Apple, Fed Ex, Callaway Golf, and Outback Steakhouse become household names. These measures have bipartisan support in the Senate and have already been proposed by the president. There is no reason why Congress shouldn’t move quickly on this bill to ensure capital is getting into the hands of America’s job creators at no cost to taxpayers.”

“With the dual purpose of creating investment opportunities and providing small business with access to capital, the SBIC program is a proven resource for fostering innovation, growth, and job creation,” said Senator Snowe. “Our legislation strengthens this already successful program to ensure entrepreneurs have access to the adequate resources they need to drive America’s economic growth. It is my hope the Senate will pass this critical legislation as swiftly as possible, as our nation’s capital-starved small businesses deserve no less.”

Additional modifications made to the SBIC program by the EXCEL Act include:

• Indexing the program caps to increase with inflation in order to ensure adequate program growth.

• The SBA will disclose effectiveness of individual SBICs to improve program transparency and accountability.

• Giving SBA the tools to increase outreach to help small businesses.

SBIC Background:

• SBICs are privately owned and operated funds that make long-term investments in American small businesses.

• SBICs are licensed and regulated by the SBA.

• SBICs use their own private money, plus money borrowed with an SBA guarantee.

• In the SBIC’s core debenture program, SBICs borrow $2 of SBA guaranteed funds for every $1 of private capital

• Since 1958, SBICs have invested $56 billion to more than 100,000 small businesses.