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WASHINGTON-CUNA was invited to meet with Small Business Administration officials last Monday to discuss ways credit unions might become more involved in SBA lending. Though the number of credit unions involved in SBA-backed lending has nearly doubled in the last year since SBA expanded their access-from 76 to 139-the agency is looking for ways to make it easier in hopes of getting more involved. “SBA wanted to talk to CUNA to make sure credit unions and small businesses alike are aware of the 7(a) program and that credit unions can make SBA loans,” CUNA Associate General Counsel Mary Dunn said. She also lauded NCUA’s efforts on the issue of member business lending and working with SBA. During that meeting, SBA officials asked CUNA to head up a focus group aimed at identifying any problems in the application process and why some credit unions choose not to go through SBA. Dunn said the focus group will likely meet during CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference but an exact date and time has not been set. Dunn said the American Bankers Association has been particularly critical of SBA’s handling of the 7(a) program and others, probably partially because of the expanded access for credit unions last year and the lowering of the guarantee ceiling to $750,000. In related news, SBA requested $678.4 million in funding from the fiscal year 2005 budget. The request includes a $12.5 billion guarantee authority, a 30% increase over this year’s request. “The SBA guaranteed a record number of loans last year, with double digit increases in the percentage of loans to women, Hispanics, African Americans and Asian Americans,” SBA Administrator Hector Barreto said. “The budget request of $12.5 billion will allow the SBA to build on the success we’ve had in this important loan program, and will provide more businesses with the capital needed to start up and expand.” [email protected]

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