Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, today announced that last night the Senate voted to pass two major pieces of legislation to help small businesses, including an amendment that would raise the cap of the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) 7(a) loan guaranty program and reform by requiring heightened congressional scrutiny of the program and statutory language to prevent SBA loans from displacing private sector loans. This will allow small businesses to continue receiving loans through the end of the fiscal year.

“Small entities – the driving force of our economy – need to have access to capital,” said Vitter. “Thousands of small businesses across the nation rely on this important SBA program, and any prolonged lapse of the program would have threatened their ability to secure the credit necessary to start or expand their businesses. There’s been some pent up anxiety amongst small business owners this week, so I’m relieved and glad to see the Senate pass my common sense, broadly bipartisan amendment.”

Vitter, along with Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), introduced and passed an amendment to H.R. 2499, the Veterans Entrepreneurship Act of 2015 that waives all fees on SBA loans to veterans and preserves the 7(a) loan guaranty program through the end of the fiscal year, which reached its statutory cap on its lending authority yesterday. This legislation also implements reforms to protect the taxpayer and ensures heightened Congressional scrutiny of the loan program.

Earlier this week, Vitter sent a letter to SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet urging her to take action to preserve the 7(a) program while he and other Congressional leaders pursued legislative options. In April of this year, Vitter passed legislation through the SBC that would increase the 7(a) cap. Additionally, Vitter has been working to include a cap increase in the Customs conference report and the Highway bill.

The SBA’s 7(a) loan program is the entity’s flagship loan program for small businesses. The program operates at a zero subsidy from the taxpayers due to the underwriting process and fees associated with the program. CBO has indicated there is no cost associated with lifting the cap.

Late last evening the Senate also passed the Veterans Entrepreneurship Act (H.R. 2499), which originally passed the House with a vote to 410-1. H.R. 2499 and S. 957, the Senate companion introduced by Senator Shaheen and reported out of the Small Business Committee with unanimous support on April 23, 2015, will:

• Make permanent SBA express loan guarantee fee waivers for veterans;
• Require a report on financial planning and counseling for owners of small business concerns in the National Guard and reserves;
• Require a report on accessibility and outreach to female veterans by women’s business centers and Veterans Business Centers; and
• Require a report on the military reservists economic injury disaster loan program.