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Small-Business Bills Head For The White House

Two bills beneficial to small companies, passed by the House Tuesday, are the first pieces of legislation in the 106th Congress to be sent to the President to be signed into law. One measure -- the Small Business Y2K Readiness Act -- authorizes the Small Business Administration (SBA) to guarantee loans of up to $1 million to small firms to correct their Year 2000 computer problems. The bill's passage "is a good first step," says Bruce Josten, executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which cochairs an industry coalition lobbying for Y2K legislation. But, he observes, the measure represents only "a small slice of what American businesses and consumers need this year to avoid Y2K problems. Now we urge Congress to pass the bipartisan Year 2000 Readiness & Responsibility Act, which lets businesses focus on remediation, not litigation." The other bill headed to the White House -- the Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) Technical Corrections Act -- expands SBA's ability to offer equity investment, long-term loans, and "hybrid" loan packages through its venture-capital arm, the SBIC. The agency has loaned more than $13 billion to small businesses, helping such one-time small firms as Staples Inc. and Outback Steakhouse Inc. grow into big companies.

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