The House on Thursday approved $582 million in funding for federal small-business lending and assistance programs overseen by the Small Business Administration.

The amount is more than $100 million higher than the Bush administration's proposed budget for the agency, presented in January, and 20 percent more than its entire budget for 2006. Last year, Congress failed to pass a 2007 budget for the agency.

The funding approved this week includes $80 million for 7(a) loans -- the agency's main lending program for small businesses -- $16.5 million in loans and assistance for its microloan program, and $100 million for Small Business Development Centers, among other initiatives.

"This legislation will give thousands of businesses the resources they need to create jobs," Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.), the chairwoman of the House Small Business Committee, said in a statement. "These loans reach business owners across industries and throughout the country."

Since 2001, the SBA's annual budget has been reduced by nearly half.

The bill is expected to be taken up by the Senate in the weeks ahead.

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