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How to Find the Right SBA Loan

The SBA’s loan programs are designed specifically for small business owners who don’t have access to other reasonably termed financing. There are four main types of loan programs:

7(a) loan program: This is the SBA’s primary program to help startups and existing small businesses obtain financing. 7(a) loans are the most basic and most commonly used type of loan, as well as the most flexible. The money can be used for a variety of general business purposes, including working capital, machinery and equipment, furniture and fixtures, purchasing or renovating land and buildings, leasehold improvements and debt refinancing. Loan maturity is up to 10 years for working capital and generally up to 25 years for fixed assets. Borrowers can apply through a participating lender institution.

CDC/504 loan program: This program provides businesses with long-term, fixed-rate financing for major assets, such as land and buildings. The loans are typically structured with the SBA providing 40 percent of the total project costs, a participating lender covering up to 50 percent and the borrower putting up the remaining 10 percent. Funds from a 504 loan can be used to purchase existing buildings, land or machinery, and to construct or renovate facilities. These loans cannot be used for working capital or inventory. Under the 504 program, a business qualifies if it has a tangible net worth of less than $15 million and an average net income of $5 million or less after federal income taxes for the two years before application. The maximum amount of a 504 loan is $5 million.

Microloan program: This program offers very small loans to startups, or newly established or growing small businesses. The loans can be used for working capital or the purchase of inventory, supplies, furniture, fixtures, machinery or equipment. The SBA makes funds available to specially designated intermediary lenders, which are nonprofit organizations with experience in lending and technical assistance. Those intermediaries then make loans of up to $50,000, with the average loan being about $13,000. The loan cannot be used to pay existing debts or to purchase real estate.

Disaster loans: The SBA offers this option to businesses that have been affected by a declared disaster. These low-interest loans can be used to repair or replace damaged real estate, personal property, machinery, equipment, inventory and business assets.