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The SBA is unveiling new credit lines of up to $5 million to fund small businesses

The SBA is unveiling new credit lines of up to $5 million to fund small businesses
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Ira L. Black – Corbis | Corbis News | Getty Images

The U.S. Small Business Administration plans to unveil new government-backed credit lines of up to $5 million for small businesses, SBA Administrator Isabel Casillas Guzman told CNBC.

The SBA is launching a working capital pilot program in the coming months that is designed to be more attractive to both lenders and borrowers than the agency’s existing products, Guzman said in a phone interview.

“An ongoing challenge for small businesses who are trying to go after that contract, perhaps to help us rebuild infrastructure … or a manufacturing facility that’s trying to expand its orders, is being able to have working capital to deliver against that,” Guzman said.

The project is part of the SBA’s efforts to broaden its flagship lending program for American small businesses. Through its 7(a) loan program, the SBA provides guaranties to lenders to encourage them to extend loans to small business owners.

The program backed more than 57,000 loans worth $27.5 billion last year, a 7% increase from 2022; most of those loans were for less than $350,000.

Isabel Guzman, administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) nominee for U.S. President Joe Biden, is sworn in during a Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021.

Bill Leary | Bloomberg | Getty Images

But the SBA’s efforts to provide revolving lines of credit have had “less uptake” from lenders and business owners than the agency had hoped, Guzman said.

The agency’s SBA Express loan, for instance, offers credit lines of up to $500,000, but with a 50% guaranty, which made it less appealing to lenders, she said. Another SBA product called CapLines had a complicated fee structure that wasn’t as affordable, Guzman said.

“This product is our aim to increase access to a simpler working capital line,” Guzman said. “It basically takes the best of our various options to create a pilot program to see if we can get more borrowers an affordable working capital line, versus just a pure reliance on credit cards” or other capital sources,  she said.

The SBA’s new working capital lines will have an annual fee and maximum interest rates based on the prime rate plus 3% to 6.5%, which would be roughly 12% to 15% today, according to the agency. They will allow small business owners to either fund specific projects or borrow against their assets.

Loans larger than $150,000 will have a 75% guaranty by the SBA, limiting the losses that lenders face if customers can’t repay their debts. Loans smaller than $150,000 have an 85% guaranty, the agency said.

“In an environment of higher interest rates, we want to make sure that the SBA is an option for more businesses,” Guzman said.

Business owners interested in applying when the program goes live should head to the SBA’s website or its pre-screening lender platform, she said.

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