WASHINGTON - The United States Senate approved a measure that will provide an extra $2.2 million for technical assistance in the Small Business Administration's Microloan program. The initiative, which was sponsored by Senator John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), was approved as part of the Commerce, Justice, State and Judiciary Appropriations Bill that passed the Senate late last night.

Although the original committee allocation would have cut the program by $500,000, Kerry and Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI) successfully negotiated an extra $5 million for this successful Microloan program before it was voted out of committee. Then, during final negotiations, Kerry was able to secure an additional $2.2. million with his amendment. This brings the total funding for fiscal year 2000 to $23.2 million, a 42% increase over last year.

"Microloans and technical assistance have proven effective in providing individuals with the tools to successfully start and manage their own businesses," said Kerry. "This additional funding means that we can offer more assistance to new entrepreneurs. Through the Small Business Committee, I will continue to fight to expand these programs."

Microloans, typically $25,000 or less (though the average loan is $10,000), provide financing to the neediest of small-business borrowers. SBA's microloan programs give entrepreneurs access to capital to get their businesses off the ground. The technical assistance provides micro-entrepreneurs with the management skills they need to turn their talents into viable businesses.

The SBA's Microloan program has a proven track record:

- Since the microloan pilot program was launched in 1991, it has provided more than 7,900 microloans, worth some $80.3 million.

- For every microloan which has been provided, 1.7 jobs have been created.

- A great percentage of microloans have gone to traditionally underserved groups, including 45 percent to women-owned businesses, 39 percent to minority-owned businesses and 11percent to veteran-owned businesses.