SBA Loans in Underserved Communities

The Small Business Administration, or SBA, was created to promote and assist small businesses in the United States by offering different types of SBA loans to help new and existing businesses raise funds for needed projects. One of their newer loans is their “Community Express” loan, which is designed specifically for businesses in underserved communities.

What Is an SBA Community Express Loan?

An SBA Community Express Loan is small business loan similar to a more traditional SBA small business loan, but it has a more streamlined application process. The SBA Community Express Loan was designed to help promote business growth in underserved communities, so the faster a new business receives their loan, the faster they can apply it to their business, for the betterment of their community’s health.

In order to streamline the application for the SBA Community Express Loan, the SBA established slightly stricter requirements and provides fewer options for term limits and interest rates than with their other small business loans. The maximum amount for an SBA Community Express Loan is $250,000, and the term limits are usually about seven years; however, it can take as little as 36 hours to process an application for a Community Express Loan.

Who Is Eligible?

Any business operating in a federally recognized “underserved community” may apply for an SBA Community Express Loan of any size. The SBA has a map of these communities at http://map.sba.gov//hubzone/init.asp.  In addition, the SBA also offers smaller Community Express Loans of no more than $25,000 to start-up businesses in every community.

Are These the Only Loans I Can Get?

No - the Community Express Loan is simply the only SBA loan which is specifically reserved for borrowers in underserved communities. You may also apply for one of the SBA’s other loans instead if the requirements suit you better. The SBA’s standard “7-a” loan, for example, is open to small businesses in any community, and will allow you to apply for more funding and has more flexible term limits. Other SBA loans cover funds for things like pollution control, disaster recovery, or extra funding for a seasonal business. All of these other loans are available to businesses in underserved communities. However, it may take longer than 36 hours to have these other loans processed.

How Do I Apply?

The SBA does not offer its any of its directly. Instead, it insures a loan offered by a bank or other lender in your area. These lenders each have their own application processes and requirements, but most will want you to complete a loan application and provide copies of your business plans and financial paperwork.

For the Community Express Loan, the SBA also requires lenders to ensure borrowers have undergone a modest amount of business training. Lenders must also offer borrowers a modest amount of technical assistance to ensure their business is set up properly. This training is available for free online at the SBA’s web site at http://www.sba.gov/services/training/about/index.html. Other SBA loans do not require this additional training, but any other SBA loan borrower may still take these courses anyway.