Cantwell to Push for More Money for WA Small Businesses

By:  John Vlahovich
Source: KPLU 88.5

SPOKANE VALLEY, WA (N3) - Senator Maria Cantwell hopes to pressure Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner into providing more money to small community banks to be loaned to Washington small businesses. Cantwell was in the eastern Washington city of Spokane Valley today for a discussion with local bankers and business people. John Vlahovich reports.

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Last week, during a Capitol Hill hearing, the Washington Democrat tangled with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner over the lack of federal TARP - also called bail-out - money that's available to community banks. Geithner argued that the money actually was sitting there but community banks aren't seeking it.

But the way Maria Cantwell sees it Treasury's tough loan terms are keeping the banks from asking for the money. She says Treasury wants much more from small banks than it asked of the big Wall Street banks.

Cantwell: "No one asked the large banks whether they were going to be able to be performing without TARP money. They just gave them the TARP money. And yet now we're saying to these banks we want you to only be able to apply for TARP money if you're going to be viable without TARP money."

Cantwell is spending this week's Congressional recess traveling throughout Washington, gathering tales of financial woe directly from local business owners and bankers. Cantwell says she'll use that information to pressure Treasury into lowering its viability requirements for community banks to qualify for TARP loans.

She says she thinks Treasury needs to make at least 50 billion dollars available immediately to keep small businesses operating. That's the only way, says Cantwell, that the country's near 10 percent unemployment rate will be lowered.