After enduring months of criticism that his administration had done too little to help small businesses weather the recession, President Obama said Wednesday that “there’s still too little credit flowing to our small businesses” and unveiled initiatives he said would open the spigot.
The measures, announced by Mr. Obama at a small records storage company in Maryland, would allow smaller community banks to borrow at low rates from the Treasury Department’s Troubled Asset Relief Program. It would also raise the loan caps on several popular Small Business Administration programs.
Under the administration plan, banks with less than $1 billion in assets could borrow from the program at a lower interest rate than financial institutions are required to pay.
In exchange, banks must demonstrate how they would increase lending to small businesses and follow up with quarterly reports. According to the White House, most business loans by the community banks that are eligible for the new rules are made to small businesses.
In addition, community groups that lend to small businesses in low-income areas under a Treasury Department program will be able to borrow relief money at just 2 percent annually for eight years. In the past, banks have been leery of the such loans because the program allows the government to buy warrants for the banks’ common stock and because it requires the institutions to limit executive compensation. But the small banks probably will not have to issue warrants in that program rules contain an exception for infusions of less than $100 million. The proposal as described Wednesday caps the infusions at $20 million.
The small institutions would be subject to the same compensation rules as any other relief recipient, said Gene Sperling, senior counselor to Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, in an interview. But, he added, “for these smaller community banks, the executive bonus restrictions will usually affect only their single most highly compensated employee.”
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