Government looks at redirecting some bailout funds to small businesses
There's still a lot of money left in the government's $700 billion bank bailout program. There's now an effort in Congress to steer some of that money to small businesses. Democratic Senator Marc Warner of Virginia is leading an effort to create a $50 billion pool in mostly TARP money that banks must loan to small businesses. "The problem is that banks, both large and small are still very much in recovery mode. They're hording capital. They're drawing in credit lines because they still have a serious of particularly bad real estate loans on their books, both home mortgages and commercial-based mortgages," he told NPR's Guy Raz. In Charlotte, small business owner Summer Plum likes the idea of redirecting TARP money for loans to small businesses, although she's prefer that none of it go through the big banks. Experience has taught her that banks aren't too interested in trying to help small-business owners. WFAE's Greg Collard reports. Summer Plum always planned on being in business for herself. As she puts it, "I work well with others, not for others." Plum worked retail for six years while having a small business on the side selling her own blend of organic teas. She eventually expanded into massage therapy. Last year, Plum took the plunge. She combined tea with massage therapy, and opened Felicitea. "It's slow. It's not fantastic. I can pay the bills, and I can pay them on time, which is an improvement over some months this year," she says. Plum says a low-interest business loan would have helped launch her business. Problem was, she didn't need a lot money. "Most of the small loans from the banks are $10,000. I don't need $10,000. That's a lot of money. I have a small stock. It was hard to find a (business) loan within the realm that I need, like $3,000 to $5,000." She's currently the only employee. Plum says she clears about $600 a month, and she can't afford health care. She'd love to expand someday, but she doesn't trust the banks - not after they wanted her to take on more debt. The paperwork that goes with a Small Business Administration loan intimidates her. But, if there's a pool of money dedicated to help people like herself. Plum says she'll give it a try. "Because then, I think it would actually make it to the small businesses. When the money went back to the banks, Not sure where it went, personally," Plum says. Her current space isn't much. She rents a tiny room on the second floor of a men's tailor shop in the Elizabeth area of Charlotte. Her desk is in one corner. A table for customers to relax and drink tea is in the opposite corner. Her massage table is in between. But Plum is optimistic. She says she just needs to make it over that first-year hump. "There are lots of little jobs that wouldn't get done if it weren't for one or two-person operations. For society to even fuction, you need small businesses like ours." She wants help, but only from people who have her best interests in mind.