If you are a woman or minority who owns or wants to start a business, these programs can help. Intermediaries assist you in developing a viable loan application package and securing a loan. On approval the SBA provides a letter of prequalification you can take to a lender. The women's program uses only non-profit organizations as intermediaries; the minority program uses for-profit intermediaries as well. Once your loan package is assembled, the intermediary submits it to the SBA for expedited consideration; a decision usually is made within three days. If your application is approved, the SBA issues a letter of prequalification stating the agency's intent to guarantee the loan. The intermediary will then help you locate a lender offering the most competitive rates.
The maximum amount for loans under the women's program is $250,000; under the minority program, it is generally the same, although some district offices set other limits. With both programs, the SBA will guarantee up to 75 percent (80 percent on loans of $100,000 or less). Intermediaries may charge a reasonable fee for loan packaging. These pilot programs are available at a limited number of locations.