Senate committee passes lending, disaster bills

NEW YORK (AP) — The Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship has passed and sent to the full Senate four bills aimed at helping small businesses get loans and disaster recovery help.

One of the bills passed late Monday, the Commercial Real Estate and Economic Development Act, would reinstate for five years a law allowing small businesses to use loans known as Small Business Administration 504 loans to refinance certain mortgages. The law, part of the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010, expired on Sept. 27. If it's not reinstated, owners would be allowed to use 504 loans only to purchase or expand property.

The second bill, the Expanding Access to Capital for Entrepreneurial Leaders Act, would raise to $4 billion the amount of debt that the SBA's Small Business Investment Company program guarantees. The current limit is $3 billion. Under the Small Business Investment Company program, investment firms licensed by the SBA invest in small businesses using money raised through SBA guarantees. The increase in the guarantees would make more money available for investment in small businesses.

The committee also passed a third bill related to lending, the Communicating Lender Economic Activity Records from the Small Business Administration Act. It would require the SBA to establish an online database to provide small businesses and government officials with up-to-date information about SBA lenders.

The fourth bill, the Small Business Disaster Reform Act, would change the SBA requirement that businesses must use their homes as collateral for disaster loans under $200,000. The bill would require that the SBA first consider a company's assets such as real estate, equipment or inventory before requiring that an owner put a home up as collateral. The bill would also allow small businesses located in federal disaster areas to get help from out-of-state Small Business Development Centers. Under current law, businesses can only get help from SBDCs in their states. SBDCs offer counseling and education to small businesses.

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