Editorial: Bill offers needed help for small businesses

For 30 years of his life, Carl Levin has served Michigan as a United States senator.

        The 75-year-old Detroit Democrat is serving his sixth consecutive six-year term, and his current committee assignments include chairmanship of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee.

        Levin has been Michigan’s senior senator since 1995, and is this state’s longest-serving member of the upper chamber.

        Levin has brought his rich public service background to his membership on the Senate Small Business Committee, which recently passed a bill to increase loans to small businesses and provide small-business owners with more flexible financing options.

        The Senate legislation is known officially as the Small Business Job Creation and Access to Capital Act of 2009. The full Senate will take up the bill after the holidays. The House has passed jobs bill legislation, which Senate supporters hope can be merged with their bill, whose provisions would:

        • Increase loan limits in several categories.

        • Permit the refinancing of short-term commercial real estate debt into long-term, fixed-rate loans.

        • Extend authorization to provide 90 percent guarantees on various loans and eliminate fees for some borrowers.

        • Direct the Small Business Administration (SBA) to open a Web site on which small businesses can identify lenders and their communities, and compare rates.

        For a very long time, this newspaper has been a strong supporter of small business, and frequently has called attention to its strengths and its enormous impact on our national and state economies.

        Once again, let us emphasize the importance of small business. According to the SBA, 99 percent of all independent enterprises in the U.S. employ fewer than 500 workers. These operations account for well over half of all American workers, according to the SBA.

        Understandably, Levin is happy over the committee passage. “Small businesses create jobs that will lead us out of this economic downturn,” he remarked. “But the difficulty getting credit has devastated small businesses across the country. “We have encouraged banks to lend to small businesses, but more needs to be done. This bill takes some additional steps to help provide small businesses with access to the capital they need to operate and create jobs.”

        Although Levin’s longevity and experience enhance his value to our state, he would be the first to emphasize that job creation transcends partisan politics. Indeed, it would be refreshing to see members of Congress on both sides of the aisle join forces to help put millions of Americans back to work.