By PHILIP ELLIOTT – Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama on Monday offered a fresh package of aid to small businesses — "the heart of the American economy" — in an aggressive push to get big banks that got federal bailout money to do more lending to these struggling entrepreneurs.
"You deserve a chance. America needs you to have that chance," Obama told small business owners gathered in the White House East Room as the administration detailed various steps to get credit flowing to small businesses.
With Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner by his side, Obama said the nation has small businesses to thank for many of the new jobs, roughly 70 percent in the last decade. Geithner said as small businesses prosper, the nation does, a critical element to any economic recovery.
The White House announced a series of moves to get credit flowing to small businesses. The measures include boosting bank liquidity with up to $15 billion aimed at unfreezing the secondary credit market, reducing lending fees and increasing loan guarantees, and easing the tax burden. The administration also announced that the 21 largest banks receiving government money must report monthly on how much lending they do to small businesses.The goal is to help those businesses make payroll, buy equipment and maintain or even expand employment as the nation's economy is bleeding jobs.
"As president I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure that you have the opportunity to contribute to your community, to our economy and to the future of the United States of America," Obama said.
Meanwhile, Obama expressed fresh outrage about Wall Street behavior. He said he would try to stop insurance giant American International Group, which has benefited from more than $170 billion in federal bailout funds, from paying $165 million in executive bonuses.
"How do they justify this outrage to the taxpayers who are keeping the company afloat?" the president asked.