Obama Seeks To Refocus Bailout On Small Businesses President Obama announced plans to make it cheaper for community banks to lend to small businesses, using money from the government's bank bailout fund. He also endorsed legislation that would let the Small Business Administration guarantee bigger loans to help small businesses grow.
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Obama Seeks To Refocus Bailout On Small Businesses

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Obama Seeks To Refocus Bailout On Small Businesses

Obama Seeks To Refocus Bailout On Small Businesses

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Metropolitan Archives in suburban Maryland is a rarity in the business world these days. It's a small business that's expanding. The family-owned paper warehouse has gotten some help from government loan programs and it was the backdrop today for President Obama as he announced new efforts to make credit more widely available to small businesses.

NPR's Scott Horsley has that story.

SCOTT HORSLEY: Joe Incarnato started Metropolitan Archives along with a fraternity brother five years ago and turned an empty warehouse into a bustling business. He's managed to weather the recession, employ 10 people and before long he's hoping to hang out the help wanted sign again.

Mr. JOE INCARNATO (Owner, Metropolitan Archives): We have been fortunate to take our small, family-operated business and turn it into a successful company.

HORSLEY: Earlier this year, Incarnato was able to buy the building he's in with a loan backed by the Small Business Administration. As part of its stimulus effort, the federal government cut fees for SBA loans and boosted guarantees. Since then, SBA loan volumes have rebounded by 70 percent from their recession low. Even so, President Obama says there's still too little credit flowing to small businesses.

President BARACK OBAMA: There are still too many entrepreneurs who can't get the loans they need to open up their doors and start hiring. There's still too many who are struggling to make payroll and to stay open, and there are still too many successful small businesses that want to expand further and hire more, but just don't have the capital to do it.

HORSLEY: The president announced plans to make it cheaper for community banks to lend to small businesses using money from the government's bank bailout fund. He also endorsed legislation that would let the SBA guarantee bigger loans to help small businesses grow.

Pres. OBAMA: These companies are the engine of job growth in America. They fuel our prosperity. And that's why they have to be at the forefront of our recovery.

HORSLEY: Community bankers welcome the administration's move, but it's not clear how much of a difference it will make. Chief economist Paul Merski of the Independent Community Bankers of America says even with the new discount, bailout funds are an expensive source of capital, and the government's money comes with a lot of strings attached. What's more, he says, both bankers and borrowers are cautious about piling up debt when the economic recovery is still uncertain.

Mr. PAUL MERSKI (Chief Economist, Independent Community Bankers of America): It's not only a accessing capital, but it's the regulators allowing banks to do additional loans. And it's also creating a economic environment where there's a demand for quality loans out there.

HORSLEY: Still, the Obama administration is eager to show that its financial rescue efforts extend beyond Wall Street. On a day when Wells Fargo reported quarterly earnings of $2.6 billion and Morgan Stanley set aside $5 billion for year-end bonuses, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs says the financial recovery must be more widely shared.

Secretary ROBERT GIBBS (White House Press Secretary): We've seen progress in some sectors, but the president continues to hear daily from small businesses that are still struggling to get access.

HORSLEY: As it shifts its attention to small business, the administration is starting to wind down some other parts of the bank bailout. At a fundraiser in New York City last night, Mr. Obama scolded Wall Street for accepting bailout money, then fighting the regulatory changes he's proposed to prevent another financial meltdown. Mr. Obama said when Wall Street is profiting, but small businesses are struggling, it's a sign that people have forgotten we're all in this together.

Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House.

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