The nation's credit unions could significantly expand the amount of money they are able to loan to small businesses under a measure introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
The junior senator from upstate New York, a Democrat, said the legislation - the Small Business Lending Enhancement Act of 2009 - would allow credit unions to double their lending ability to businesses, a move she said would help stimulate the economy and create jobs.
"We're in a very tough economic climate," said Gillibrand, at a news conference Sunday at a Bethpage Federal Credit Union branch in Huntington village. Small businesses, she said, find accessing capital exceptionally difficult in the current economic climate.
Gillibrand said her bill would allow credit unions - essentially cooperatives owned by members - to double the cap on business loans to 25 percent of total assets.
There are 461 credit unions in New York State, including 36 on Long Island. Gillibrand said an analysis by the Credit Union National Association showed the legislation would help create more than 7,000 jobs in the state without government expenditures.
The senator said that under her bill, the cap nationwide would rise to $10 billion, which she said would help create about 100,000 new jobs.
Kirk Kordeleski, chief executive of Bethpage Federal, said at the news conference that his credit union currently has a cap of $475 million, which would grow to $950 million under the bill. On Long Island, Kordeleski said, credit unions' cap would grow to $3 billion.
"This bill is important to us," Kordeleski said. "We need to lift the cap. This is not a bailout. It will not affect taxpayers."