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Small-business aid bill passed

| Friday, Sept. 24, 2010

WASHINGTON -- Small businesses stymied by a lack of credit should get lots of help soon, as the House of Representatives on Thursday passed legislation to provide billions in aid and sent it to President Obama. The vote was 237-187.

Obama, who said he intended to sign it into law Monday, chided Republicans for "months of partisan obstruction and needless delay" and called the measure a "common-sense" plan for the economy.

"The small business jobs bill passed today will help provide loans and cut taxes for millions of small-business owners without adding a dime to our nation's deficit, " the president said in a statement. "I'm grateful that Democrats and a few Republicans came together to support this common-sense plan to put Americans back to work."

Many Republicans, though, saw the measure differently. "It's one more bailout, and the American people know you can't bail and spend your way to prosperity," said House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence of Indiana.

The bill, which the Senate passed earlier this month, will have the Treasury Department administer a $30 billion small business lending fund through small, healthy community banks.

Such banks, whose niche is small-business lending, would submit small-business plans to their bank regulators. The Treasury Department, consulting with those regulators, then could approve a capital infusion.

Because the measure is a top priority of the White House and congressional Democrats, bank experts expect the money to begin flowing fairly quickly.

"Having an additional capital source available can increase the comfort level for greater lending by banks around the country," said Paul Merski, a senior vice president and the chief economist at the Independent Community Bankers of America, which represents community banks.

The bill also will make $12 billion in tax relief available for small business. Among the changes: giving investors a 100 percent exclusion from capital gains taxes on small business investments, allowing taxpayers to write off 50 percent of the cost of new equipment immediately and doubling the current tax deduction to $10,000 for start-up expenditures this year and next.

Small businesses generally are defined as those that employ fewer than 500 people, though there's no widely accepted definition. Small business can vary from law firms to entrepreneurs to small manufacturers and others.

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