ASTA is offering tepid praise for the $787 billion stimulus package signed into law yesterday by President Obama. ASTA said the final version of the bill omitted a key provision to help restore small business lending. The provision, which was contained in the House-passed version of H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, would have provided travel agents and other small business owners with rapid access to much-needed capital without having to face the administrative delays posed by the current Small Business Administration (SBA) lending process.
“The inclusion of a direct lending program in the House-passed version of this bill raised hope among ASTA’s small business travel agents,” said Chris Russo, ASTA’s president and chair. “Sadly, Congressional negotiators, meeting behind closed doors, chose to remove the direct lending provision mere hours before the bill was complete. Whatever small cost savings they achieved came at the expense of the small business community.”
In a letter sent yesterday, Russo asked President Obama to call for the swift passage of legislation to expand the authority of the SBA to lend directly to small business owners. The letter also praised the bill’s inclusion of provisions to increase secondary market liquidity for small business loans, increased funding for the “microloan” program, and fee reductions for existing SBA loan products.
Russo added, “While we are disappointed by this setback, ASTA remains committed to work with Congress and with the Obama Administration to ensure that further targeted, meaningful help to travel agents and other small business owners can set the stage for an economic recovery in 2009.”