7(a) loans are the most basic and most used type loan of SBA's business loan programs. Its name comes from section 7(a) of the Small Business Act, which authorizes the Agency to provide business loans
to American small businesses.
All 7(a) loans are provided by lenders who are called participants because they participate with SBA in the 7(a) program. Not all lenders choose to participate, but most American banks do. There are also
some non-bank lenders who participate with SBA in the 7(a) program which expands the availability of lenders making loans under SBA guidelines.
7(a) loans are only available on a guaranty basis. This means they are provided by lenders who choose to structure their own loans by SBA's requirements and who apply and receive a guaranty from SBA
on a portion of this loan. The SBA does not fully guaranty 7(a) loans. The lender and SBA share the risk that a borrower will not be able to repay the loan in full. The guaranty is a guaranty against
payment default. It does not cover imprudent decisions by the lender or misrepresentation by the borrower.
Under the guaranty concept, commercial lenders make and administer the loans. The business applies to a lender for their financing. The lender decides if they will make the loan internally
or if the application has some weaknesses which, in their opinion, will require an SBA guaranty if the loan is to be made. The guaranty which SBA provides is only available to the lender. It assures
the lender that in the event the borrower does not repay their obligation and a payment default occurs, the Government will reimburse the lender for its loss, up to the percentage of SBA's guaranty.
Under this program, the borrower remains obligated for the full amount due.
All 7(a) loans which SBA guaranty must meet 7(a) criteria. The business gets a loan from its lender with a 7(a) structure and the lender gets an SBA guaranty on a portion or percentage of this loan. Hence
the primary business loan assistance program available to small business from the SBA is called the 7(a) guaranty loan program.
A key concept of the 7(a) guaranty loan program is that the loan actually comes from a commercial lender, not the Government. If the lender is not willing to provide the loan, even if they may be able to
get an SBA guaranty, the Agency can not force the lender to change their mind. Neither can SBA make the loan by itself because the Agency does not have any money to lend. Therefore it is paramount that
all applicants positively approach the lender for a loan, and that they know the lenders criteria and requirements as well as those of the SBA. In order to obtain positive consideration for an SBA supported
loan, the applicant must be both eligible and creditworthy.
WHAT SBA SEEKS IN A LOAN APPLICATION
In order to get a 7(a) loan, the applicant must first be eligible. Repayment ability from the cash flow of the business is a primary consideration in the SBA loan decision process but good character, management
capability, collateral, and owner's equity contribution are also important considerations. All owners of 20 percent or more are required to personally guarantee SBA loans.
All applicants must be eligible to be considered for a 7(a) loan. The eligibility requirements are designed to be as broad as possible in order that this lending program can accommodate the most diverse
variety of small business financing needs. All businesses that are considered for financing under SBA’s 7(a) loan program must: meet SBA size standards, be for-profit, not already have the internal
resources (business or personal) to provide the financing, and be able to demonstrate repayment. Certain variations of SBA’s 7(a) loan program may also require additional eligibility criteria.
Special purpose programs will identify those additional criteria
Eligibility factors for all 7(a) loans include: size, type of business, use of proceeds, and the availability of funds from other sources. The following links will provide more detailed information on these
ELIGIBLE AND INELIGIBLE TYPES OF BUSINESS:
SBA must determine if the principals of each applicant firm have historically shown the willingness and ability to pay their debts and whether they abided by the laws of their community. The Agency must
know if there are any factors which impact on these issues. Therefore, a "Statement of Personal History" is obtained from each principal.
OTHER ASPECTS OF THE BASIC 7(a) LOAN PROGRAM
In addition to credit and eligibility criteria, an applicant should be aware of the general types of terms and conditions they can expect if SBA is involved in the financial assistance. The specific terms
of SBA loans are negotiated between an applicant and the participating financial institution, subject to the requirements of SBA. In general, the following provisions apply to all SBA 7(a) loans. However,
certain Loan Programs or Lender Programs vary from these standards. These variations are indicated for each program.