Small businesses at the Shore received 177% more money from U.S. government-backed loans during the quarter that ended December 31, 2010 than the same time a year earlier, the U.S. Small Business Administration said Wednesday. Volume was aided by a program that temporarily waived fees and increased the amount the U.S. government could back. But one expert said there are signs the credit freeze that slowed the economy is thawing.
“I do see lenders still lending,” said John Fudge, senior vice president of USA Funding, a small-business loan consultant in Freehold Township. “I wouldn’t say we’re (back to) normal yet, but I’d say we’re trending in that direction.”
With banks tightening underwriting standards in the wake of the financial meltdown, the U.S. government eased some of the terms in SBA programs: The SBA raised the amount of a bank loan it would guarantee to 90% from 75%. The program has expired, but SBA officials said it paid off. The agency approved 92 loans for $50.4 million in Monmouth and Ocean Counties during the first quarter of fiscal 2011, up from 53 loans for $18.2 million a year earlier. It approved 570 loans for $311.3 million in New Jersey during the quarter, up from 333 loans for $133.4 million a year earlier, the agency said. The top lenders statewide were JPMorgan Chase Bank, which approved 59 loans for $8.7 million; TD Bank, which made 51 loans for $10.8 million; and Pennsylvania-based Metro Bank, which approved 44 loans for $50.4 million, according to the SBA.
Matthew Putnam, regional sales manager of SBA loans for TD Bank, said credit remains tight, but businesses and consumers appear to be gaining confidence. The bank itself is hiring employees to increase its small-business lending. “The worst of the recession is . . . behind us, and we are seeing an increase in applications,” Putnam said. “Our message is: We’ve got money to lend when they’re ready to borrow.”