WASHINGTON-President George W. Bush has signed into law a bill boosting the Small Business Administration’s lending authority for the remainder of the 2004 fiscal year. “The President’s action today will allow the SBA and small businesses the opportunity to get down to the business of financing growth and creating jobs for the U.S. economy,” SBA Administrator Hector Barreto said. “I believe we can expect another record-breaking year for the SBA’s flagship 7(a) loan program, and another historic year for America’s small businesses.” The new funding, which the House and Senate approved unanimously, will raise SBA’s lending authority for its 7(a) program, widely popular among credit unions, by $3 billion for the current year for a total of $12.5 billion. The additional money will allow SBA to raise its temporary cap on 7(a) loans of $750,000 back to its usual $2 million and raise the potential guarantee up to 75%. With the new funding structure, the program will be able to reach up to 90,000 small businesses this fiscal year, which will create or retain approximately half-a-million jobs. The bill also increased the cap on SBA Express loans-which allow the lender to use their own paperwork-from $250,000 to $2 million. The Express program provides a 50% guarantee but requires less paperwork and training. Piggyback loans will also be permitted once again. In addition, the legislation reauthorizes the 504-loan program for business real estate lending that credit unions are beginning to show an interest in and sets authorization levels for the Small Business Investment Company program through the end of the fiscal year. It also guarantees that SBA’s Small Disadvantaged Business and Preferred Surety Bond programs will remain intact through June 4, 2004.

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