Robert Jay Dilger
Senior Specialist in American National Government
The Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) Program is designed to enhance small business access to venture capital by stimulating and supplementing “the flow of private equity capital and long term loan funds which small business concerns need for the sound financing of their business operations and for their growth, expansion, and modernization, and which are not available in adequate supply.” Facilitating the flow of capital to small businesses to stimulate the national economy was, and remains, the SBIC program’s primary objective.
As of September 30, 2013, there were 292 privately owned and managed SBA-licensed SBICs providing small businesses private capital the SBIC has raised (called regulatory capital) and funds the SBIC borrows at favorable rates (called leverage) because the SBA guarantees the debenture (loan obligation). SBICs pursue investments in a broad range of industries, geographic areas, and stages of investment. Some SBICs specialize in a particular field or industry, while others invest more generally. Most SBICs concentrate on a particular stage of investment (i.e., startup, expansion, or turnaround) and geographic area.
The SBA is authorized to provide up to $3 billion in leverage to SBICs annually. The SBIC program has invested or committed about $19.8 billion in small businesses, with the SBA’s share of capital at risk about $9.4 billion. In FY2013, the SBA committed to guarantee $2.15 billion in SBIC small business investments, and SBICs invested another $1.34 billion from private capital, for almost $3.5 billion in financing for 1,068 small businesses.
Some Members of Congress and the Obama Administration argue that the program should be expanded as a means to stimulate economic activity, create jobs, and assist in the national economic recovery. For example, S. 511, the Expanding Access to Capital for Entrepreneurial Leaders Act (EXCEL Act) and S. 1285, the Small Business Innovation Act of 2013, would increase the program’s annual authorization amount to $4 billion from $3 billion and increase the program’s family of funds limit (the amount of outstanding leverage allowed for two or more SBIC licenses under common control) to $350 million from $225 million.
Others worry that an expanded SBIC program could result in loses and increase the federal deficit. In their view, the best means to assist small business, promote economic growth, and create jobs is to reduce business taxes and exercise federal fiscal restraint.
Some Members have also proposed that the program target additional assistance to startup and early stage small businesses, which are generally viewed as relatively risky investments but also as having a relatively high potential for job creation. For example, during the 113th Congress, H.R. 30, the Small Business Investment Enhancement and Tax Relief Act, and S. 1285 would authorize the Administration to establish a separate SBIC program for early-stage small businesses. Also, as part of the Obama Administration’s Startup America Initiative, the SBA established a five-year, $1 billion early stage debenture SBIC initiative in 2012. Early stage debenture SBICs are required to invest at least 50% of their investments in early stage small businesses, defined as small businesses that have never achieved positive cash flow from operations in any fiscal year.
Date of Report: November 21, 2013
Number of Pages: 43
Order Number: R41456
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