As we continue to sift dutifully through the over 1, 000 pages of the stimulus bill (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009), there is one provision that is not getting much attention, but could be very helpful to small businesses. If you are a small business and have received an SBA loan from your local banker, but are having trouble making payments, you can get a “stabilization loan”. That’s right; finally some bailout money goes into the hands of the small business owner, instead of going down the proverbial deep hole of the stock market or large banks. But don’t get too excited. It is limited to very specific instances and is not available for vast majority of business owners.

There are some news articles that boldly claim the SBA will now provide relief if you have an existing business loan and are having trouble making the payments. This is not a true statement and needs to be clarified. As seen in more detail in this article, this is wrong because it applies to troubled loans made in the future, not existing ones.

Here is how it works. Assume you were one of the lucky few that find a bank to make a SBA loan. You proceed on your merry way but run into tough economic times and find it hard to repay. Remember these are not conventional loans but loans from an SBA licensed lender that are guaranteed for default by the U. S. government through the SBA (depending upon the loan, between 50% and 90%). Under the new stimulus bill, the SBA might come to your rescue. You will be able to get a new loan which will pay-off the existing balance on extremely favorable terms, buying more time to revitalize your business and get back in the saddle. Sound too good to be true? Well, you be the judge. Here are some of the features:

1. Does not apply to SBA loans taken out before the stimulus bill. As to non-SBA loans, they can be before or after the bill’s enactment.

2. Does it apply to SBA guaranteed loans or non-SBA conventional loans as well? We don’t know for sure. This statute simply says it applies to a “small business concern that meets the eligibility standards and section 7(a) of the Small Business Act” (Section 506 (c) of the new Act). That contains pages and pages of requirements which could apply to both types of loans. Based on some of the preliminary reports from the SBA, it appears it applies to both SBA and non-SBA loans.

3. These monies are subject to availability in the funding of Congress. Some think the way we are going with our Federal bailout, we are going be out of money before the economy we are trying to save.

4. You don’t get these monies unless you are a viable business. Boy, you can drive a truck through that phrase. Our friends at the SBA will determine if you are “viable” (imagine how inferior you will be when you have to tell your friends your business was determined by the Federal government to be “non-viable” and on life support).

 

5. You have to be suffering “immediate financial hardship”. So much for holding out making payments because you’d rather use the money for other expansion needs. How many months you have to be delinquent, or how close your foot is to the banana peel of complete business failure, is anyone’s guess.

6. It is not certain, and commentators disagree, as to whether the Federal government through the SBA will make the loan from taxpayers’ dollars or by private SBA licensed banks. In my opinion it is the latter. It carries a 100% SBA guarantee and I would make no sense if the government itself was making the loan.

7. The loan cannot exceed $35, 000. Presumably the new loan will be “taking out” or refinancing the entire balance on the old one. So if you had a $100, 000 loan that you have been paying on time for several years but now have a balance of $35, 000 and are in trouble, boy do we have a program for you. Or you might have a smaller $15, 000 loan and after a short time need help. The law does not say you have to wait any particular period of time so I guess you could be in default after the first couple of months.

8. You can use it to make up no more than six months of monthly delinquencies.

9. The loan will be for a maximum term of five years.

10. The borrower will pay absolutely no interest for the duration of the loan. Interest can be charged, but it will be subsidized by the Federal government.