- The Washington Times - Friday, February 5, 2010

Buoyed by news of a slightly lower unemployment rate last month, President Obama on Friday touted a proposal that would allow some firms to refinance real estate loans through the Small Business Administration and raise the cap on federally insured lines of credit.

The idea is the latest in a series unveiled by the White House in recent weeks, as Mr. Obama targets small businesses for tax relief and other incentives he hopes will help reverse job losses. The announcement followed news that the national unemployment fell to 9.7 percent in January — the first time it has below 10 percent since the summer.

“The true engine of job creation will always be businesses. What government can do is fuel that engine by giving entrepreneurs and companies the support to open their doors and to expand and to hire more workers,” Mr. Obama said after meeting with small-business owners in Lanham, Md. “We’re starting with small businesses, because that’s where most of the new jobs do.”

Mr. Obama said allowing small firms to refinance their commerical real estate loans and mortgages through the SBA would help them secure the capital they need to hire and invest. Earlier this week, he called for using $30 billion from the Wall Street bailout fund to create a small business lending program that would give community banks tax incentives if they boost lending to small firms.

“Right now, even companies with great credit histories are facing challenges refinancing at what are historically low rates,” Mr. Obama said. “Property values have fallen, and lending has dropped. As a result, many businesses that would otherwise survive this downturn are at risk of defaulting, which in turn will lead to even lower property values and less lending, not to mention lost jobs.”

Mr. Obama last week proposed a $5,000 tax credit for each new hire a company makes. He has also pushed for SBA loan guarantees to more than double —from $2 million to $5 million.

The proposals would all be subject to congressional approval. The House in December passed a $154 billion package aimed at creating jobs while the Senate is set to take up legislation next week.

Mr. Obama appeared alongside SBA Administrator Karen Mills and several small-business owners, including those from a local firm that maintains heating and cooling systems.

“Having spent some time in Washington, I actually am already familiar with hot air, I have to say,” Mr. Obama quipped.

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