The Small Business Administration backed a record $10.9 billion of loans in fiscal 1997-including its most ever to women and minorities, the agency's administrator said.

Nearly 6,400 lenders made $9.46 billion of SBA-guaranteed loans for general business purposes under the agency's 7(a) program, Administrator Aida M. Alvarez said Nov. 6 at a National Association of Government Guaranteed Lenders conference in Monterey, Calif.

The agency backed another $1.44 billion of loans for real estate and equipment acquisitions during the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, she said.

Nearly 25% of the agency's 7(a) loans, or $2.3 billion, went to minority-owned businesses, and woman-owned businesses received 15%, or $1.5 billion.

Those successes came despite a rocky period last spring when the SBA thought it was running out of funds and put the brakes on its lending programs. The agency said in June that it had discovered a budget error, freeing enough funds for the rest of the year.

The agency continues its efforts to reduce red tape and develop risk management practices to monitor its programs, Ms. Alvarez said. The SBA will roll out simplified loan status reports and an abbreviated procedures manual this month for lenders.

Ms. Alvarez also said the agency's rule on the securitization of the nonguaranteed portions of 7(a) program loans will not be ready for a few months.

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