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SBA working to get loans into veterans' hands

By BERNARD J. PAPROCKI - 3/21/2014

Our nation’s veterans have served our country proudly and bravely. They are true American heroes, and we must make sure we’re doing everything possible to support them once they re-enter civilian life.

That’s why, starting Jan. 1 and for the rest of the fiscal year, the U.S. Small Business Administration has set the borrower upfront guaranty fee at zero for all veteran loans approved under the SBA Express program, which supports loans of up to $350,000.

This program, called SBA’s Veterans Advantage, is available to small businesses owned and controlled by veterans; active-duty military participating in the Transition Assistance Program; reservists; National Guard members; or their spouses or the widowed spouses of service members or veterans who died during service or as a result of service-related disabilities.

Our nation’s veterans are highly skilled and highly trained leaders in their communities, so it makes sense that after serving their country, veterans would become entrepreneurs and small-business owners. Our job at the SBA is to make sure that veterans and their families have the tools and capital they need to start and grow a business.

Of all SBA loans that go to veteran-owned businesses, 73 percent are for $350,000 or less. The SBA Express loan program, which supports loans up to $350,000, is SBA’s most popular loan delivery method, with nearly 60 percent of all 7(a) loans over the past decade being approved through the program. Since the program’s inception, it has also been one of the most popular delivery methods for getting capital into the hands of veteran-owned businesses.

Last fall, the SBA announced that for fiscal year 2014, the upfront guaranty fee on all 7(a) loans of $150,000 or less would be set to zero. These initiatives make the loans cheaper for the borrower, another way SBA is looking to serve small-business owners as they look for ways to access capital.

The SBA is dedicated to helping veterans, providing access to business counseling and training, capital and business development opportunities through government contracts. In fiscal year 2013, the SBA supported $1.86 billion in loans for 3,094 veteran-owned small businesses. And since 2009, the dollar amount of SBA lending support to veteran-owned firms has nearly doubled.

We strive to support veterans and members of the military in as many ways as possible. That’s why the SBA also supports a direct working capital loan program for small businesses with an essential employee who is a military reservist called to active duty. These Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loans provide funds so that these small businesses can cover operating expenses the company would have been able to cover if the essential employee had not been called to active duty. This way, our brave men and women in uniform don’t have to choose between serving their country and growing their communities.

We thank our veterans and their families for their commitment to our country and way of life. As acting administrator for Region II, I am proud that the SBA fully supports our veteran entrepreneurs. We look forward to continuing to reach out to them through our 68 field offices across the country.

Bernard J. Paprocki is acting administrator for Region II of the U.S. Small Business Administration, covering New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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