WASHINGTON — U.S. small businesses are still being starved of the capital they need to create jobs and help pull the economy out of recession, President Barack Obama said Thursday.
In a town-hall meeting at Industrial Support Inc., a small manufacturing company in Buffalo, N.Y., Obama said helping small businesses grow is a top priority for his economic team.
"Maybe the single most important thing we can do right now is to help ensure that credit-worthy small-business owners can get the capital they need," Obama said, according to prepared remarks released in Washington.
"This is our small-business agenda. This is our jobs agenda," he said.
In his remarks, Obama hailed the latest progress in the economy, noting that employment had risen for four months in a row. But he quickly added that he won't rest until everyone who wants to work can find a job.
"If you're still looking for a job, it's still a recession," Obama said. "If you can't pay your bills or your mortgage, it's still a recession. No matter what the economists say, it's not a real recovery until people can feel it in their own lives — until Americans who want work can find it; until families can afford to pay their bills and send their kids to college."
Citing last week's economic reports showing job growth in the United States for the fourth straight month, the president argued that his efforts to rescue the economy are working. He focused on his administration's efforts to help small businesses.
Last week, the administration unveiled legislation "to give our small businesses a boost," in the president's words. The legislation includes a $30 billion fund to increase lending to credit-worthy businesses.
Earlier Thursday, the Congressional Oversight Panel over the government's Troubled Asset Relief Program concluded that the government's efforts to funnel capital to small businesses have had little effect so far.
It's not clear that small businesses are being denied credit, the report said. The data show lending is down sharply, but it's unknown whether that's because banks won't lend or because businesses don't want to borrow.
The bipartisan panel threw some cold water on Obama's $30 billion plan. It could arrive too late to contribute meaningfully to economic recovery," the group said.
Help for small businesses would be especially welcome in cities like Buffalo, where large corporations have downsized and manufacturing jobs have been shipped overseas.
Western New York long has suffered from a lack of job growth and population losses. Two New York state residents who've started a website to draw attention to unemployment and other problems they blame on Washington put up a billboard along Interstate 190 that reads: "Dear Mr. President. I need a freakin job. Period."