With Hurricane Harvey, the COVID-19 pandemic and this year’s historic winter storm, it’s been a rough time for Texas, and small businesses have suffered. However, there are plenty of available financial resources to help business owners who might benefit from guaranteed loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The traditional SBA loan guarantee program helps business owners with loans ranging from $500 all the way up to $13,750,000. There are also loans pegged to disaster relief, including loans connected to COVID-19.

The SBA stands by businesses through both their ups and downs, says Mark Winchester, deputy district director at the SBA Houston District Office. “We’re with small business owners for the life of their business,” he says.

Winchester answers basic questions for local small business owners about SBA loans.

Q: Why should I look into a loan provided by the SBA?

A: We call it credit elsewhere. The reason a business owner usually considers SBA is because they don’t have sufficient collateral. Banks require $1 collateral for every $1 you borrow. What can a business owner do when they need to borrow $100,000 but they don’t have $100,000 in collateral? That’s where the SBA steps in and provides that guarantee to the bank. 

Q: What’s the best way for a business like mine to determine if I’m eligible for federal loans or aid?

A: Small business owners can visit www.sba.gov and click on “financing” to learn more about loans and get additional information about eligibility. Information is also available on SBA Houston’s website at www.sba.gov/tx/houston

Q: How else does SBA Houston help local business owners?

A: SBA Houston hosts multiple informational webinars a week for small business owners on a variety of topics, including access to capital. The Houston office puts out a detailed resource guide as well, which includes a list of SBA partners that offer free, confidential business counseling for entrepreneurs and business owners. These resource partners can help business owners understand what loans they’re eligible for and which lender would be the most appropriate for them to work with. Lenders tend to have niches just like a small businesses do.

Q: What are the general qualifications to receive a loan from the SBA?

A: You need to be a U.S. citizen or a permanent U.S. resident and your business needs to be physically located in the U.S.

Q: I know a business owner who could benefit from an SBA loan, but their first language isn’t English. Does the SBA communicate in other languages?

A: Yes. Materials are translated into some 68 other languages.

Q: What about disaster loans? How can I learn more about those?

A: There are two different kinds of disaster loans, traditional ones for disasters like Hurricane Harvey, and ones related to the COVID-19 pandemic. For many business owners, COVID-related loans are currently the most pressing and people can learn more about them at sba.gov/coronavirus.

— By Deborah Blumberg