Senate urged to help small businesses in jobs bill

WASHINGTON A coalition of 80 associations is strongly urging the U.S. Senate to include more provisions in its job creation bill that would help ease the lending crunch for small businesses across the country.

The Small Business Access to Credit Coalition told senators in a letter Wednesday that its members "were very disappointed" to find that only one provision related to expanding small business access to credit was included in the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act. The bill was sponsored by Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.

Restaurant industry members have long voiced their frustration with the difficulty of arranging credit in this recessionary economy, which is severely hampering growth. As a result, they say, the industry is unable to create new jobs.

"We are concerned that if the Senate fails to listen to the needs of small businesses and address the credit crisis, a tremendous opportunity to help create new, sustainable jobs in 2010 and beyond will be lost," the coalition said in the letter.

The Small Business Access to Credit Coalition includes the International Franchise Association, National Restaurant Association, National Council of Chain Restaurants and Golden Gate Restaurant Association.

The group also complained that the Senate bill contains "none of the provisions aimed at improving the Small Business Administration lending programs," and urged the Senate to extend the existing SBA provisions through the end of December 2010.

"The depletion of funds last fall is proof that the SBA programs were, and continue to be, critically important for our nation's credit-worthy entrepreneurs," the coalition said. Some $354 million in appropriations is required to fund the extension of the higher guaranty percentages and waiver of borrower fees for the balance of the fiscal year, the group said.

In addition, the coalition asked senators to support an increase in the maximum loan size and the maximum guaranteed portion of the SBA loans, noting that Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, introduced a measure that would boost the maximum size of SBA 7(a) and 504 loans from $2 million to $5 million.

An IFA survey of franchise business executives conducted late last year found that nearly half, or 49.2 percent, of the survey respondents ranked "financing and access to capital" as their greatest concern.

"Small businesses cannot be the engine of our economy if they continue to face unrelentingly tight credit markets," the letter said.

Contact Paul Frumkin at [email protected] [3].