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WASHINGTON – Loan approvals for the SBA’s 7(a) program are up over the past two years despite last year’s increase in fees for borrowers and lenders. The SBA has already approved 23,197 loans totaling $3.56 billion since the start of its fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, 2004. That’s compared to 18,822 loans worth $3.12 billion in the same period a year earlier, and 13,759 loans worth $2.24 billion two years ago. Borrowers and lenders, including credit unions, saw the SBA increase the fee on processing a 7(a) loan of $150,000 or less go from 1% to 2% of the SBA guaranteed portion and loans from $150,000 to $700,000 increase to 3% from 2%. The lender annual service fee also increased to 0.50%, up from 0.36%. The fee for loans over the $700,000 mark remained the same at 3.5%. An additional enhancement to the 7(a) program was Congress’ action to make the SBAExpress program permanent by raising the maximum loan size to $350,000 with a 50% government guarantee. In early December, President Bush approved $16 billion for the 7(a) program. The program is also now operating without a congressional appropriation or at zero subsidy, meaning that the program is self-supported through fees paid by lenders and borrowers. While some credit unions are concerned about what the fee increases will mean when trying to attract borrowers, many agree that the 7(a) program is a worthwhile offering. The SBA is also reporting gains with its Certified Development Company, or 504, loan program. Through the first three months of the fiscal year, the 504 program had issued 1,780 loans worth $882.9 million, about 13% ahead of the same period a year ago, when the program had 1,576 loans for $743.25 million.

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