Just when you thought all of those small business aid programs were over.
This week, the U.S. Department of Treasury posted guidance for its newly reauthorized State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI), which is a federal small business aid program that's been around since 2010 but is set to be replenished by the $1.9 trillion federal coronavirus relief stimulus package enacted in March. This latest iteration of the program is expected to kick off with a new tranche of $10 billion in funding as soon as next year, though the exact timeline of when businesses can see these funds will vary by state. The Treasury estimates that the program could wield as much as $100 billion in overall lending authority over seven years.
Rather than seeding businesses directly, states, U.S. territories, the District of Columbia, and Native American tribes must apply for funding, which then flows to participating lenders. States and territories are required to use at least 90 percent of their fund allocation for loans, investments, and other support for small businesses headquartered in the same state. Tribal governments must adhere to the in-state requirement as well. However, they have leeway in the following scenarios: If a tribe is located in multiple states, if it's located on a border, or if a tribe is located in one state but has treaty rights in another.
Eligible small businesses and startups--typically defined as companies with 500 or fewer workers--may secure loans or investments as they normally would through their bank, community lender, or equity investor. Funds can be used for everything from startup costs and hiring employees to franchise fees and equipment purchases. Many businesses in the past have used funds to expand operations, which can include purchasing new buildings or securing lines of credit.
Interest rates and loan terms are up to the lenders, though the program must adhere to minimum borrower protections, so businesses aren't paying excessive interest fees on their loans. Though the program doesn't offer any grants, it's not entirely composed of lending either. The SSBCI also allows for states to set up venture capital programs.
While it's not technically a pandemic program like the Paycheck Protection Program, the SSBCI does account for hardship in its funding determinations. The formula for aid includes a state's number of jobs and job losses compared to the national level of jobs and job losses. After being approved, states can receive up to three installments of federal funding.
The SSBCI is expected to feature different funding tiers. For instance, the states, territories, and Washington, D.C. can expect about $6 billion coming their way--depending on eligibility--while another $500 million is allotted for Native American tribes. A fourth of total funds, or $2.5 billion, will be set aside for certain jurisdictions with an eye toward reaching socially and economically disadvantaged business owners. The jurisdictions themselves may also be rewarded if they're successful in reaching businesses. There's also $500 million carved out for businesses with as many as 10 employees, while another $500 million is set aside to provide technical assistance to small businesses applying for small business support programs.
The program expects to generate $10 in private investment for each dollar in federal funding.
Among the goals of the SSBCI is to get money into the hands of business owners from underserved communities, which have historically faced inequities when accessing capital and other resources, says Wally Adeyemo, the deputy secretary of the Treasury. "The pandemic only deepened that divide," he adds.
The effort, once it launches, could serve as something of a last bastion for small business aid, as other pandemic-era loan programs have wrapped up or will expire soon.