Carrying through with his announcement in the State of the Union, on February 2, 2010, President Obama provided the outlines of a proposed $30 billion Small Business Lending Fund to provide capital to community banks, with incentives to increase small business lending.  As proposed, the program will require Congressional approval to move the funds outside of TARP, which should remove the applicability of the executive compensation and governance restrictions and is also hoped to remove the stigma associated with TARP funds.

Based on the initial fact sheet, the terms appear generally comparable to the financial terms under the Capital Purchase Program, with reductions in the dividend rate for the first five years triggered by increases in small business lending.  Every 2.5% increase in small business lending through December 31, 2011 over 2009 levels would trigger a 1% decrease in dividend rate, down to a minimum rate of 1%.

Banks with less than $1 billion in assets would be eligible to receive a capital investment of up to 5% of their risk-weighted assets.  Banks with between $1 and $10 billion in assets would be eligible to receive a capital investment of up to 3% of their risk-weighted assets.  Participation in the program will require approval by the bank’s primary federal regulator, although no details are available as to the standards that will be employed.

Existing TARP Capital Purchase Program participants will be permitted to convert their existing TARP Preferred Shares into capital under the new program, which could serve to reduce the cost of the TARP capital.

The White House has stated that they are open to other designs for the fund, and any Small Business Lending Fund is subject to Congressional modification and approval.