The Small Business Administration is asking Congress to increase 7(a) general business loans by 9%, to $8.5 billion in fiscal 1998, SBA Administrator Aida Alvarez told a Senate panel Monday.

The recently sworn-in Ms. Alvarez, testifying Wednesday before the Senate Small Business Committee, noted that the SBA's budget request includes $18 million to improve portfolio monitoring as the agency shifts servicing and liquidation of 7(a) loans to private-sector lenders.

The money would be used to hire more experts in lender oversight, establish financial performance goals for lenders, and to create a data base and computer information systems for tracking their performance, she said. Over all, the SBA has requested a $701.6 million budget for fiscal 1998, an 18% reduction attributed, in part, to lower loan program subsidy costs.

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