WASHINGTON – Today the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship unanimously passed legislation to expand and improve small business loan programs. The Small Business Lending Reauthorization and Improvements Act (S. 1256) provides working capital to small businesses, loans for fixed assets and equipment through economic development corporations with a local focus, and strengthens micro-credit programs.

"These programs will leverage $87 billion in loans to America's small businesses, filling a critical gap regular markets do not meet – especially in underserved communities," said Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), Chairman of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, who called on the Bush Administration not to obstruct passage of the bill. "These very programs helped create or retain 22,000 jobs in Massachusetts last year, so this legislation is needed to help our small businesses continue to innovate, create jobs, and contribute to our economy."

On Wednesday, May 2nd, Sen. Kerry hosted a roundtable with small businesses, lenders, advocates and Small Business Administration representatives to receive input on this legislation. The National Association of Government Guaranteed Lenders, National Black Chamber of Commerce, Association for Enterprise Opportunity, National Association of Development Companies, American Bankers Association, and Independent Community Bankers of America have endorsed S. 1256. A hearing was also held in the Committee in the 109th Congress.

Most of the provisions in the lending bill unanimously passed the Committee with bipartisan support in previous Congresses and were included in last year's Small Business Administration reauthorization package which was blocked by the Bush Administration for consideration by the full Senate.

The Small Business Lending Reauthorization and Improvements Act:
  • Establishes an Intermediary Lending Pilot Program championed by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), to reach businesses that are not eligible for 7(a) and 504 loans but need capital to help finance their growth;
  • Increases loan assistance for businesses looking to trade with other countries, a provision championed by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.);
  • Expands lending in low-income communities by coordinating the 504 loan program with the New Markets Tax Credit program;
  • Encourages lending to Native Americans and to those with disabilities;
  • Strengthens the Microloan and Microloan Technical Assistance Programs and the Program for Investment in Microentrepreneurs;
  • Updates the 7(a) and 504 programs to address more expensive markets and rising interest rates, making it possible to refinance property with 504 loans and get larger 7(a) loans;
  • Allows small businesses to obtain both 7(a) and 504 loans, giving them the benefits of both programs when they need working capital and fixed-assets;
  • Allows non-profit child care centers to get 504 loans through a pilot program;
  • Creates an office at the SBA to increase business ownership by minorities; and
  • Reduces red tape to make participation in loan programs easier and to encourage more lenders and non-profits to make small business loans.