WASHINGTON — A bill introduced in Congress this week would expand the powers of credit unions to make business loans.

The legislation, written by Rep. Paul Kanjorski, D-Pa., calls for raising the volume ceiling on business loans to 25% of a credit union's assets, from the current 12.25%.

The measure also would exclude some loans from counting toward that cap, including any for less than $250,000, certain loans made in underserved areas and those made to faith-based organizations.

Credit unions have been trying for years to ease restrictions on their business lending but without success. They have said, however, that they see the economic crisis as an opportunity to gain ground on the issue.

Kanjorski, a longtime credit union supporter, said his bill would help small businesses.

"During this time of economic uncertainty, many businesses, especially small businesses, are facing extreme difficulties accessing credit in order to create and maintain jobs," he said. "By permitting credit unions to expand their lending to small businesses, we can work to turn around our difficult financial situation at no cost to taxpayers."

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