At a press conference this morning, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) discussed the need to get capital moving to small businesses and stimulate local economies. Cantwell is fighting to quickly take up and pass a Small Business Lending Fund of $30 billion. The government funds -- which would be repaid -- would encourage lending by banks with under $10 billion in assets. All the money is returned to the federal government after five years. The Senate is set to take up small business lending when it returns next week. Joining Cantwell at this morning's press conference were community bankers and small business owners.
"I believe two things are necessary to generate job growth in the private sector: capital and a reasonable expectation of profit," said Cantwell. "Washington state's innovative small businesses are seeing opportunities for profit. But since the financial crisis began, lending capital has been in dangerously short supply. In fact, commercial and industrial lending by commercial banks and savings and loans has declined by some $315-billion dollars since the financial crisis began. That's one of the main reasons are recovery has been so slow. Creating a Small Business Lending fund will offset almost all that decline in lending."
The Tri-Cities have shown signs of economic improvement, with unemployment in Benton County declining from 8.3 percent in February to 6.4 percent in April, and unemployment in Franklin County declining from 10.6 percent in February to 7.6 percent in April. Under the current bill, eight banks in the Tri-Cities would qualify for lending capital from the fund.
Cantwell strongly supports President Obama's proposal to create the $30 billion fund to help community banks lend to small businesses. She has urged the administration and Congress to act with the same urgency afforded to the big banks. Cantwell will propose that the lending terms be altered to enable more community banks to take advantage of the program. Last month, she sent Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid a letter encouraging him to take up legislation to support growth and hiring by small businesses.