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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Small Business Lending Fund

Robert Jay Dilger
Senior Specialist in American National Government

Congressional interest in small business access to capital reflects, in part, concerns about economic growth and unemployment. Small businesses, defined as having fewer than 500 employees, have played an important role in net employment growth during previous economic recoveries. However, recent data show that net employment growth at small businesses is not increasing at the same rate as in previous economic recoveries.

Some, including President Obama, have argued that current economic conditions make it imperative that the federal government provide additional resources to assist small businesses in acquiring capital necessary to start, continue, or expand operations and create jobs. Others worry about the long-term adverse economic effects of spending programs that increase the federal deficit. They advocate business tax reduction, reform of financial credit market regulation, and federal fiscal restraint as the best means to assist small businesses and create jobs.

Several laws were enacted during the 111th Congress to enhance small business access to capital. For example, P.L. 111-5, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), provided the Small Business Administration (SBA) an additional $730 million, including funding to temporarily subsidize SBA fees and increase the 7(a) loan guaranty program’s maximum loan guaranty percentage to 90%. P.L. 111-240, the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010, authorized the Secretary of the Treasury to establish a $30 billion Small Business Lending Fund (SBLF) ($4.0 billion was issued) to encourage community banks with less than $10 billion in assets to increase their lending to small businesses, a $1.5 billion State Small Business Credit Initiative to provide funding to participating states with small business capital access programs, numerous changes to the SBA’s loan guaranty and contracting programs, funding to continue the SBA’s fee subsidies and the 7(a) program’s 90% maximum loan guaranty percentage through December 31, 2010, and about $12 billion in tax relief for small businesses. P.L. 111-322, the Continuing Appropriations and Surface Transportation Extensions Act, 2011, authorized the SBA to continue its fee subsidies and the 7(a) program’s 90% maximum loan guaranty percentage through March 4, 2011, or until available funding was exhausted, which occurred on January 3, 2011.

This report focuses on the SBLF. It opens with a discussion of the supply and demand for small business loans. The SBLF’s advocates argued that the SBLF was needed to enhance the supply of small business loans. The report then examines other arguments which were presented both for and against the program. Advocates argued that the SBLF would increase lending to small businesses and, in turn, create jobs. Opponents argued that the SBLF could lose money, lacked sufficient oversight provisions, did not require lenders to increase their lending to small businesses, could serve as a vehicle for TARP recipients to effectively refinance their TARP loans on more favorable terms with little or any resulting benefit for small businesses, and could encourage a failing lender to make even riskier loans to avoid higher dividend payments.

The report concludes with an examination of the program’s implementation and a discussion of bills introduced during the 112th Congress to amend the SBLF. For example, S. 681, the Greater Accountability in the Lending Fund Act of 2011, would limit the program’s authority to 15 years from enactment and prohibit TARP recipients from participating in the program. H.R. 2807, the Small Business Leg-Up Act of 2011, would transfer any unobligated and repaid funds from the SBLF to the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund “to increase the availability of credit for small businesses.” H.R. 3147, the Small Business Lending Extension Act, would extend the Treasury Department’s investment authority from one year to two years.

Date of Report: November 14, 2011
Number of Pages: 28
Order Number: R42045
Price: $29.95

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