Sunday, March 22, 2009


On Monday, March 16, 2009, President Obama announced a new plan to help small businesses. The plan is mainly centered around easing SBA loans. The plan calls for the government to buy up SBA loan securities to free up the secondary markets so banks can sell their SBA loans; it cuts SBA loan fees; and it increases the Federal guarantee on SBA loans to 90%. It also calls for the 21 largest banks getting Federal funding to report on their volume of small business loans each month. The rest of the announced provisions for the most part were already included in the Stimulus package and not new.

So: thumbs up or thumbs down?
I’d say the plan is mildly positive, but mostly it’s just not relevant to the majority of small businesses. Here’s why:

To the extent small businesses actually want SBA loans, this could help. However, not every small business wants or needs a loan. Demand for small business loans is down significantly, according to the U.S. Treasury. As Dawn Rivers Baker noted, lack of loans is not what ails many small businesses. In times when the economy is down, going into debt doesn’t necessarily look all that attractive. Battening down the hatches to get through to better times in the economy, does.

The Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council makes a similar point — saying the President’s focus on SBA lending merely helps on the margins: “While these may help some small businesses that are in a position to borrow money, many small firms are not in sound financial shape or don’t feel it is prudent to increase their debt during the rough economic period.”

Consider, also, how few small businesses actually get SBA loans. For instance, as this Washington Post article reports, SBA loans counted for just 4% of loan volume for small businesses in 2006.

More SBA loans are not a cure-all for every small business — although you would hardly know that based on some reports. For instance, this article on is bizarrely titled “Small Business Loves Obama’s Plan.” However, there are no small business owners interviewed in the article. The title makes it sound as if small business owners spontaneously erupted in applause in favor of the plan. Wishful thinking perhaps … but not what the article says … nor the real-world reaction.

We can just wait and see what will happen.