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Bill to ease small business lending advances

Legislation that's been held up all summer by partisan bickering clears a committee vote and could be approved by the House on Thursday.

September 23, 2010|By Sharon Bernstein, Los Angeles Times

A small business loan rescue package that's been stuck in Congress for months is headed for final approval Thursday in the House.

The House Rules Committee on Wednesday cleared the way for debate on the bill and a vote to ratify the package passed by the Senate last week. The bill would then go to President Obama, who has said he will sign it.

The legislation would provide funds for the government to waive onerous fees on loans backed by the Small Business Administration. It would also make lending to small businesses less risky to banks by allowing the SBA to guarantee up to 90% of a loan's value.

The bill would set up a $30-billion fund to encourage community banks to increase lending to small businesses. In addition, banks could make larger loans than previously allowed.

The loan measures are particularly important to Southern California, where small businesses provide more than half the jobs.

Most of the bill's provisions were added to the SBA's arsenal for making loans in 2009 as part of the Obama administration's economic stimulus package. But money for the program ran out in May and legislation to restart it has been stalled all summer amid bitter partisan wrangling. Thousands of businesses — many of them approved for loans last spring — have been waiting for a resolution.

"Borrowers waited and banks waited and we've been waiting for 90 days now," said Jim Wullschleger, senior vice president of City National Bank in Los Angeles. "It has slowed down lending activity to small businesses a pretty dramatic amount."

sharon.bernstein@latimes.com

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