July 22, 2009

Studies: Small-business loans hard to find

Small-business financing is still hard to come by, despite a loosening of U.S. Small Business Administration-backed loans, two studies indicated Wednesday.

Some 42 percent of small-business owners polled this month said they were not able to get the financing they needed to run their firms, the National Small Business Association said.

That's up from 33 percent in December, the association said.

Despite several economic stimulus packages and lots of talk, only 3 percent of small businesses reported a positive impact of the stimulus bills on their business, association Chairman Keith Ashmus said.

A separate report from the Service Employees International Union said SBA-backed lending by major banks had significantly dried up.

Bank of America Corp., for instance, made only $10 million in the most basic and most-used type loan of SBA business loan program in the first seven months of this fiscal year, the report found.

In the past two full years, the bank made $102 million and $336 million in those loans, known as 7(a) loans, the union said.

The loans' name comes from section 7(a) of the U.S. Small Business Act that authorized the SBA to provide business loans to small U.S. businesses.

Bank of America would not comment to USA Today on 7(a) lending numbers.

The bank, based in Charlotte, N.C., and one of the country's largest, said in its second-quarter earnings report that its small-business banking division provided more than $580 million in new credit by way of credit cards, loans and lines of credit to more than 35,000 customers.