SBA Loan Programs


Lending programs offered by the Small Business Administration are designed to help small businesses, rural communities, and not-for-profits obtain access to capital. This encourages greater economic vitality in the U.S. economy and small local communities. Utilizing these programs requires specialized knowledge of the rules and processes. This is why we partner with lenders to underwrite and process these loans on their behalf.


SBA 7(a) Loan Program

The SBA 7(a) loan program is the SBA’s most-used loan program and a key tool for community lenders. The SBA 7(a) is a loan guarantee program, meaning a bank loans the funds to qualified applicants and the SBA guarantees a large portion of a loan, mitigating much of the risk for lenders and providing small business borrowers with access to needed capital.

Key features of the 7(a) loan program:


  • Loans of up to $5 million can be made with no minimum loan amount.
  • The SBA can guarantee as much as 85% on loans up to $150,000, and 75% on loans more than $150,000. (Loan guarantees have been temporarily increased to 90% until Sept. 30, 2021)
  • Interest rates are set by the lender but can’t exceed SBA maximums.
  • Extended terms on most 7(a) loans can ensure stronger borrower cash flow and increased ability to service debt.
  • NEW in Feb. 2021: Three months of payment relief (P&I payments made by the SBA, referred to as “Section 1112 payments”) will be available for new SBA 7(a) loans. This is considered nontaxable income. Previous recipients of Section 1112 payments are not eligible for additional payments.
  • NEW in Feb. 2021: 7(a) borrowers with loans approved prior to 3/27/20 will receive two additional months of P&I payments beginning in February 2021 (capped at $9,000/month). Businesses in specified NAICS codes may be eligible for an additional three months of P&I payments immediately following the two months.


For more information, visit SBA General Small Business Loans: 7(a).

SBA Express

SBA Express loans are smaller loans with an accelerated time for SBA review. The SBA responds to the loan application within 36 hours.


  • Loan amounts up to $500,000 (Temporarily increased to $1 million until Sept. 30, 2021)
  • SBA guarantees up to 50% (Temporarily increased to 75% for loans under $350,000 until Sept. 30, 2021)
  • Interest rates are set by the lender but can’t exceed SBA maximums.
  • Revolving lines of credit up to seven years, with maturity extensions permitted at the outset

SBA CDC/504 Loan Program

The CDC/504 loan program provides financing for major fixed assets such as equipment or real estate. The 504 program differs from the 7(a) program in that it is a loan participation program, with the SBA providing part of the loan funds. A key characteristic of the program is long-term, fixed rate financing for the SBA portion of the loan. Proceeds can be used for:


  • The purchase of land, including existing buildings
  • The purchase of improvements, including grading, street improvements, utilities, parking lots, and landscaping
  • The construction of new facilities or modernizing, renovating, or converting existing facilities
  • The purchase of long-term machinery and equipment


For more information, visit SBA Real Estate and Equipment Loans: CDC/504


CAPLines is an umbrella program featuring four lines that helps small businesses meet their short-term and cyclical working-capital needs.


  • Seasonal Line: Borrowers must use the loan proceeds solely to finance the seasonal increases of accounts receivable and inventory (or in some cases associated increased labor costs); it can be revolving or non-revolving.

  • Contract Line: This line finances the direct labor and material cost associated with performing assignable contract(s); it can be revolving or non-revolving.

  • Builders Line: Small general contractors or builders constructing or renovating commercial or residential buildings can finance direct labor and material costs. The building project serves as the collateral, and loans can be revolving or non-revolving.

  • Asset-Based Line: This is an asset-based revolving line of credit for businesses unable to meet credit standards associated with long-term credit. It provides financing for cyclical growth as well as recurring and/or short-term needs. Repayment comes from converting short-term assets into cash, which is remitted to the lender. Businesses continually draw from this line of credit, based on existing assets, and repay as their cash cycle dictates. This line is generally used by businesses that provide credit to other businesses. Because these loans require continual servicing and monitoring of collateral, additional fees may be charged by the lender.


For more information, visit SBA CAPLines.

SBA Export Loans

The SBA has several programs available to help small businesses that develop or expand trade and export activities. Ninety-seven percent of all exporters are small businesses!

  • SBA Export Express offers financing up to $500,000. This is the simplest export loan product offered by the SBA, allowing participating lenders to use their own forms and procedures. The SBA determines eligibility and provides a loan approval in 36 hours or less.

  • The Export Working Capital loan provides advances for up to $5 million to fund export transactions from purchase order to collections. This loan has a low guarantee fee and quick processing time.

  • The SBA’s International Trade loan program provides small businesses with enhanced export financing options for their export transactions. The ITL is designed to help small businesses enter and expand into international markets and, when adversely affected by import competition, make the investments necessary to better compete. The ITL offers a combination of fixed asset, working capital financing, and debt refinancing with the SBA’s maximum guarantee of 90% on the total loan amount.


For more information, visit SBA Export Loan Programs.

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USDA Business & Industry (B&I) Loan Program

A borrower located in a rural community may qualify for special financing through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The (B&I) Guaranteed loan program provides guarantees of up to 80% of a loan made by a commercial lender. Proceeds for a B&I loan can be used for:


  • Working capital
  • Machinery and equipment
  • Buildings and real estate
  • Certain types of debt refinancing


For more information, visit USDA Business & Industry Loans.

USDA B&I CARES Act Program

This temporary program was created by the CARES Act to help rural businesses and ag production facilities with working capital loans that cover costs to prevent, prepare, and respond to the coronavirus pandemic. The loans offer a 90% loan guarantee and repayment terms up to 10 years. Loan principal payments may be deferred for up to three years from the loan closing.


For more information, visit USDA B&I CARES Act Program.

USDA Community Facilities Program

Essential community infrastructure is key in ensuring rural areas enjoy the same basic quality of life and services enjoyed by those in urban areas. Community facilities programs offer direct loans, loan guarantees, and grants to develop or improve essential public services and facilities in communities across rural America. These amenities help increase the competitiveness of rural communities in attracting and retaining businesses that provide employment and services for their residents.


For more information, visit USDA Community Facilities Programs.

USDA Water & Waste Disposal Loan & Grant Program

This program provides funding through grants, direct loans, and guaranteed loans for clean and reliable drinking water systems, sanitary sewage disposal, sanitary solid waste disposal, and storm water drainage to households and businesses in eligible rural areas.

USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP)

This program provides guaranteed loan financing and grant funding to agricultural producers and rural small businesses for renewable energy systems or to make energy efficiency improvements.


Funds may be used for renewable energy systems, such as:

  • Biomass (biodiesel and ethanol, anaerobic digesters, and solid fuels)
  • Geothermal for electric generation or direct use
  • Hydropower below 30 megawatts
  • Hydrogen
  • Small and large solar or wind generation


Funds may also be used for energy efficiency improvements to things such as HVAC systems, insulation, lighting, cooling and refrigeration, doors and windows, and equipment.

USDA 538 Low- to Moderate-Income Housing Programs

These programs provide direct loans and loan guarantees to increase the supply of affordable rental housing for low- and moderate-income individuals and families in eligible rural areas and towns. Complexes may contain units that are detached, semi-detached, row houses, or multi-family structures.


Requirements include:

  • Rent is capped at certain levels based on area median income
  • Complexes must consist of at least five units
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Read examples of loans programs at work in VITAL case studies