Government Shutdown Starts to Slow Lending Activity

The Small Business Administration and Agriculture Department are closed.

October 1, 2013, 11:58 AM
PHOTO: A stop light flashes near the Capitol in Washington, Oct. 1, 2013 as Congress plunged the nation into a partial government shutdown.
A stop light flashes near the Capitol in Washington, Oct. 1, 2013 as Congress plunged the nation into a partial government shutdown.
Susan Walsh/AP Photo

Oct. 1, 2013 — -- As 800,000 federal workers are sent home following the government shutdown, lending to households and small businesses has been halted or slowed.

The government's Small Business Administration, Federal Housing Administration and the Agriculture Department's Farm Service Agency are essentially out of reach for many people applying for funds. As government funding for these agencies has essentially been halted, these offices have been reduced to near ghost towns.

The Small Business Administration said in a statement, "The Administration strongly believes that Congress should act immediately to end this shutdown and fund critical Government operations."

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"Due to the government shutdown, America's 28 million small businesses will be unable to access an average of $96 million in capital supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) per day, as well as an average of $1.9 billion in capital per month," the SBA statement reads. "SBA lending is a critical resource for small businesses and in anticipation of a government shutdown, the last day of the fiscal year saw a significant increase in SBA lending – more than six times the agency's daily average – to support more than $570 million in capital through our flagship 7(a) and 504 loan programs."

The website for the Department of Agriculture states, "Due to the lapse in federal government funding, this website is not available. After funding has been restored, please allow some time for this website to become available again."

James Chessen, the American Bankers Association's chief economist, said loans supported by government guarantee programs may be disrupted, such as for homebuyers using the FHA program and farmers using Farm Service Agency guarantees.

But meanwhile, he says, banks are open for business and most customers will see no impact for services or loans.

Mark Zandi of Moody's Analytics estimates that a three- to four-week shutdown could shave 1.4 percentage points off fourth-quarter GDP growth, Bloomberg reports.

A voice message from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development states that the government shutdown has left the agency without funding, and, "Therefore most HUD programs have been temporarily interrupted and the department is closed."

But Jerry Brown, a spokesman for HUD, said there are 349 exempted employees out of the department's 9,000 who are continuing to work during the shutdown. These staff members are processing FHA loans, ensuring that community development block grant, disaster funding and vouchers for housing authorities are proceeding as usual, Brown said.

"They're making sure that that money is accessible," he said. "We have a bare skeleton staff here to keep essential operations up and running."

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When asked if HUD staff will be able to continue essential operations despite an elongated shutdown, Brown said, "That's the intent."

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