Many local small businesses may soon be eligible for interest-free loans under a new program created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
The newly launched “America’s Recovery Capital” (ARC) program allows small firms to take out loans of $35,000 to pay down existing business debts. Borrowers pay no interest on the ARC loans and repayment does not begin for one year. The loan program was established through the ARRA, which the President signed into law in February.
There are many businesses that would be viable in the long term if they could just make it through this difficult time, and this initiative can make that possible. The ARC program gives entrepreneurs the breathing room they need, so they can pay their bills, retain employees and play their traditional role as job creators in our economic recovery.
To qualify for the ARC loans, small firms must demonstrate they are experiencing immediate financial hardship due to the economic downturn, but are otherwise deemed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) to be viable. The loans will be made by commercial lenders and can be used for payments of principal and interest for existing, qualifying small business debts like credit card obligations, mortgages, lines of credit, and balances due to suppliers, vendors, and utilities.
In addition to the ARC loan program, the ARRA contained other measures aimed at helping small firms access credit. For instance, the new law increases the percentage of a loan that the SBA can guarantee, makes SBA-backed loans more affordable and provides tools to unfreeze the small business credit markets, helping small companies access capital at affordable rates.
Historically, small businesses have always been our nation’s most reliable job creators, generating seven out of ten new jobs. If our nation is going to lift itself out of this recession, we need entrepreneurs to start growing again. The ARC loan program is one element in a whole series of initiatives in the Recovery Act aimed at giving small firms the tools they need to lead our nation back to prosperity.
To apply for ARC loans, businesses should visit their local SBA-approved small business lenders. The loans will be available through Sept. 30, 2010, or until appropriated funding runs out. Additional information about the ARC loan program is available at http://www.sba.gov/recovery/arcloanprogram/index.html
DTV Antenna Assistance
With an estimated 2.8 million people still completely unprepared for the digital television conversion and many more not fully prepared, I offered legislation to make unused converter box coupon funds available for antennas.
Many people still did not realize that the converter box alone may not be sufficient to receive the new signal, especially in rural areas. Digital transmissions are different than analog signals, so viewers who were able to tune in a weak analog signal may get nothing but a blank screen with the new digital ones. In order to receive the signal, many people will need a stronger antenna.
Unlike analog signals, which when weak or obstructed may be received with fuzzy yet watchable reception, digital signals are received either perfectly or not at all. Viewers experiencing the "digital cliff effect" will likely require an antenna modification. The FCC has estimated that about five percent of over-the-air viewers may need a new antenna due to the "digital cliff effect," equivalent to about one percent of all households with televisions.
With this in mind, I sponsored a bill that would create a coupon program similar to the digital-to-analog television converter box coupon program. Under the legislation, consumers could receive a $40 coupon that could be used toward the purchase of a new antenna until September 30, 2009.
The program would be funded with unused or expired converter box coupons, which are offered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Under that program, consumers can receive up to two $40 coupons between January 1, 2008, and July 31, 2009, and must be used within 90 days after issuance towards the purchase of a stand-alone device used solely for digital-to-analog conversion.
The $1.5 billion converter box coupon program is funded largely through receipts from the auction of the analog television spectrum.
On June 3, 2009, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) held its final Open Commission Meeting before the June 12 DTV transition. Witnesses indicated that consumer DTV education and outreach efforts are accelerating, that digital signal reception and antenna issues could still be a problem for some viewers, and that the supply of converter box coupons and converter boxes should be sufficient.
Since February, when the federal government postponed the transition for three months, the number of households that are completely unready has been cut in half – from 5.8 million to 2.8 million homes, according to estimates by the Nielsen Company.
Given the role television plays in most people’s day-to-day lives, it is important to help make sure people are ready for the enormous change.
After June 12, 2009, households with over-the-air analog-only televisions will no longer be able to receive full-power television service unless they either buy a digital-to-analog converter box to hook up to their analog television set; acquire a digital television or an analog television equipped with a digital tuner; or subscribe to cable, satellite, or telephone company television services, which are expected to provide for the conversion of digital signals to their analog customers.
Analog broadcast television signals, which have been broadcast for over 60 years, will cease, and full-power television stations will broadcast exclusively digital signals over channels 2 through 51.