As part of its National Small Business Week activities, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) today announced it is expanding nationwide an online service that matches small business owners seeking business loans with lending institutions that participate in the SBA’s basic loan guaranty program, popularly known as “7(a)” loans.

Called “The LINC Tool” (an acronym for “Leveraging Information and Networks to Access Capital”), the online matching service has been tested in a pilot program since February among not-for-profit lending institutions.

“Close to 14,000 matches have been made during the pilot phase,” according to Maria Contreras-Sweet, head of the SBA. “If you have a bankable business idea backed by good credit and sound financial planning, the SBA is streamlining the process for you to get the capital you need,” she said.

The service will now be available in all 50 states and the U.S. territories.

The 7(a) Loan Guaranty serves as the SBA’s primary business loan program to help qualified start-up and existing small businesses obtain financing when they might not be eligible for business loans through normal lending channels.

It is also the agency’s most flexible business loan program, since financing under this program can be guaranteed for a variety of general business purposes.

Loan proceeds can be used for most sound business purposes including working capital, machinery and equipment, furniture and fixtures, land and building (including purchase, renovation and new construction), leasehold improvements, and debt refinancing (under special conditions). Loan maturity is up to 10 years for working capital and generally up to 25 years for fixed assets.

The SBA offers multiple variations of the basic 7(a) loan program to accommodate targeted needs.

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