May 3, 2007 -- Senate lawmakers this week introduced legislation that would allow the federal government to back nearly $100 billion in loans to small-business owners over the next three years.

The bill, introduced Wednesday by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), provides $60 billion for the Small Business Administration's 7(a) loan program, $27 billion to its 504 program, and $330 million for government-backed microloans.

Last year, more than 100,000 small-business owners received $20 billion in 7(a) and 504 loans combined.

The bill would also create a new office within the agency to oversee its lending and contracting opportunities for minorities, while better tailoring lending programs for small businesses in rural areas.

"We need to make loans more accessible to small-business owners whether they're starting out or looking to expand, in big cities or rural community," Kerry said in a statement.

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