ASTA Praises Small Business Lending Support

ASTA offered praised for the inclusion of significant support for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) credit programs in President Obama’s FY2010 Budget Overview and cited a continued need for the SBA Direct Lending Program. The Budget Overview, released yesterday, is a precursor to an expanded budget proposal that is expected to be sent to Congress in April. The proposal authorizes $28 billion in SBA loan guarantees to small businesses.

“In the current economic downturn, safeguarding access to credit is an acute and growing need for travel agents and other small business owners,” said Chris Russo, ASTA’s president and chair. “Expanded funding for the Small Business Administration will be a vital component of this goal.”

ASTA said that of the $28 billion, $17.5 billion is set aside for SBA’s 7(a) General Business Loan Guarantee program. Twenty-five million dollars would be directed to the Microloan program, which provides valuable assistance in the form of loans in small amounts to entrepreneurs and start-up businesses.

The Budget Overview also includes approximately $700 million for SBA operations; this figure is in addition to the $730 million in SBA funding that was included in H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which President Obama signed into law last week.

ASTA said H.R. 1 contained several laudable small-business lending provisions, including a measure to grant SBA the authority to raise guarantee percentages on some loans to 90 percent; a temporary reduction in fees on SBA-backed loans; and a new program to provide loans of up to $35,000 to small businesses at risk of defaulting on existing loan obligations.

The bill also provides $1.1 billion in direct disaster loans and provides for the launch of a pilot program to test the use of SBA-guaranteed loans as part of the agency’s response to disaster declarations. ASTA continues to press for a new program, modeled on the disaster loan program, to allow the SBA to lend directly to cash-strapped small businesses on an expedited basis. A provision to create such a program was included in the House-passed version of the stimulus package, only to be stripped out shortly before final passage.



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