Cantwell seeks aid for small banks

By:  Bert Caldwell
Source: The Spokesman-Review

Community banks need the same kind of help from the federal government that Wall Street received, and they need it now, Sen. Maria Cantwell said Tuesday.

Cantwell, who met with a roundtable of bankers and business owners in Spokane Valley, said release of the $30 billion President Obama proposed for small banks has been stymied by the reluctance of the U.S. Treasury to act without guidance from a gridlocked Congress.

But when Wall Street bankers came calling for the assistance that kept some from failing, she said, they got “the keys to the Treasury.”

Cantwell, who jousted with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner at a recent Senate hearing on small-business lending, said making more credit available to small business should be a higher priority than more stimulus spending.

“It’s the crux of what is stopping some of our biggest opportunities,” she said.

De Scott, owner of Simply Northwest, was one of 16 business operators and bankers who met with Cantwell.

Among the problems discussed, she said, none was mentioned more than access to credit, or lack thereof.

“That hit a hot button with everyone,” said Scott, who after 20 years of paying off her line of credit was required to secure the line with personal assets this year.

“It’s craziness,” she said.

Cantwell said businesses are foundering while Congress and the Treasury dicker over who will take the lead setting guidelines for use of the $30 billion.

If action does not come soon, she said, it will be too late.

“People have been holding on for a long time,” Cantwell said.