June 11, 2004 -- The Federal Reserve announced on Thursday that it had begun its latest Survey of Small Business Finances. The survey is aimed at increasing policymakers' understanding of how economic and regulatory changes affect small firms' access to credit.

The National Opinion Research Center of the University of Chicago will conduct interviews with 4,000 executives at firms with less than 500 employees by the end of the year on the Fed's behalf. A letter was sent to 12,000 small business owners asking them for their cooperation.

The survey will collect information about each firm's use of credit and other financial services and their experience in obtaining credit during 2003. Participants are randomly selected from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Participation is voluntary.

The Fed plans to publish its findings in 2006. This is the fourth such survey since the Fed began administering them in 1988. It was last conducted in 1998.