Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Ranking Member Olympia J. Snowe commented on today’s Committee hearing entitled, “The Recovery Act for Small Businesses: What is Working and What Comes Next?”

“The small business provisions we included in the stimulus are yielding tangible results,” said Ranking Member Snowe.  “We have witnessed an approximate 60 percent increase in SBA lending, which translates into more than $11.3 billion in new loans through the 7(a) and 504 programs and the creation or retention of over 300,000 jobs.  In procurement opportunities through the stimulus, the Federal government is exceeding its small business statutory contracting goals in every category except for women-owned small businesses.

“That said, we cannot rest on our laurels.  I urge the Administration to implement a meaningful women’s contracting program like Congress directed it to nearly a decade ago.  This would help the Federal government to meet – and exceed – its contracting requirements for women-owned small businesses.  And we must also pass legislation I introduced to increase the maximum level on 7(a) and 504 loans to $5 million so that more small businesses are able to access capital.”

In August, Ranking Member Snowe held two field hearings to discuss the issues addressed at today’s hearing in Portland, Maine, and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, with Committee member Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), as well as a forum in Bangor, Maine.  U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Karen Mills attended all three events.  Attendees heard from witnesses and panelists about the impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on small businesses, including the successes and challenges regarding access to capital, Federal contracting, and SBA lending.

To augment the Federal government’s efforts to bolster SBA lending, Ranking Member Snowe introduced S. 1615, The Next Step for Main Street Credit Availability Act of 2009, on August 6, 2009.  In addition to increasing the maximum level on 7(a) and most 504 loans to $5 million, the legislation would raise the maximum level for microloans from $35,000 to $50,000, helping thousands of entrepreneurs start their own businesses.