Anyone trying to get an SBA loan might want to send a few thank-you notes to Congress. Politicians from both parties have banded together to provide the Small Business Administration with more money next year, even as the White House sought to slash the SBA's budget by $116 million. Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine (shown at right) has been among the most active in safeguarding 7(a) loans. In March, she sponsored an amendment that added $121 million to the program's budget. That money now awaits the Appropriations Committee's approval.

With bipartisan support, Congress later voted to increase 7(a) lending authority by more than $3 billion through September. It also lifted the ban on piggybacking (using the same collateral to secure different loans) and raised the maximum level of borrowing to $2 million. The bill also increased fees for all new loans by 0.11%, and added surcharges on piggybacked loans and loans that exceed $1 million or fall below $150,000. A spokesman for lenders calls it "a good compromise." Best of all, the 7(a) program is now projected to be entirely self-funding.