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SBA loan programs target small, start-up companies

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Two U.S. Small Business Administration loan programs, SBALowDoc and SBAExpress, are expected to provide more than $1 billion in hard-to-get small loans.

SBA Administrator Aida Alvarez announced Sept. 18 that the two programs would target small business loans for under $150,000 and would "open the doors of opportunity in 'new markets,' start-ups, women- and minority-owned firms, and those in inner cities and rural areas," according to a release from SBA.

The two programs make it easier and more attractive for lenders to make smaller SBA-backed loans, the release said.

SBA has streamlined the two loan programs, making the loans they offer easier and faster to obtain. The SBALowDoc program, first launched as a pilot program in 1993, will increase its ceiling from $100,000 to $150,000 and will assure a 36-hour turnaround time on loan applications.

SBAExpress was once the Fastrak program, which began in 1995. Its ceiling will also increase from $100,000 to $150,000, and SBA will assure a 36-hour turnaround time on applications. The program will also probably see electronic application systems by April 1999 and a new revolving credit feature.

SBAExpress allows participating lenders to use their own forms and procedures, and to apply an SBA guarantee to a loan without prior credit review by SBA. Participating lenders also agree to accept a maximum loan guaranty of 50 percent.

The SBAExpress program widens the pilot program from the original 18 lenders to as many as 500 or more additional lenders.

The U.S. Small Business Administration, established in 1953, provides financial, technical and management assistance to help Americans start, run and expand their businesses. SBA's loan portfolio totals more than $45 billion.

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