August 19, 2004 -- With nearly two months left in its fiscal year, the Small Business Administration has already granted more 7(a) and 504 loans than in any other year in the agency's 51-year history. Additionally, the number of loans made to several minority groups is well above the 2003 level year-to-date.

As of August 6, the SBA had guaranteed 67,493 loans worth $10.8 billion under its 7(a) loan program, the SBA's most popular loan. The previous record for loans was last year when the government agency backed 67,306 loans worth $11.2 billion.

Under its current budget, the SBA cannot guarantee more than $12.5 billion in 7(a) loans during this fiscal year. While it is currently on pace to exceed that amount, the SBA has been assured by its budget office that it will not reach the threshold, according to Evan Keefer, a spokesman for the SBA.

The SBA backed 6,974 loans worth $3.3 billion under its 504 program, which supports long-term economic development within a community. Both the number and value of the loans issued by August 6 beat all of 2003, when 6,863 loans worth $2.5 billion were made.

The SBA said that it has already exceeded 2003 levels in loans made to African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans, women and rural entrepreneurs. Loan guarantees to African Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans were up 30 percent compared to the same time last year. Loans to woman were up 25 percent and rural loans increased 11 percent, according to the agency.

"Breaking records like this is about more than making history," said Hector V. Barreto, administrator of the SBA. "It means that we are making a real difference in the lives of more and more entrepreneurs, and that they are going on to make a real difference in our economy."