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Obama Refocuses Financial Bailout to Small Banks

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U.S. President Barack Obama is announcing plans to make more credit available to America's small businesses. The president is shifting the focus of the government's financial industry bailout from big businesses to small entrepreneurs and community banks.

President Obama says the big banks that were in critical condition a year ago do not need any new government help. But he says small businesses are the engine of job growth in America, and they are still having trouble getting loans.

"There are still too many entrepreneurs who cannot get the loan they need to open their doors and start hiring," said President Obama. "There are still too many who are struggling to make payroll and stay open. And there are still too many successful small businesses that want to expand further and hire more but just do not have the capital to do it."

At a small company near Washington, Mr. Obama said he will ask Congress to allow small businesses to get larger government loans, using money from the $700 billion financial bailout.

"These are the loans most frequently handed out by the Small Business Administration to help folks open their doors and buy machinery, equipment, land and buildings," said Mr. Obama. "These larger loans will help more small business owners and franchisees grow."

The president also wants to give more government help to the smaller banks that help finance the country's entrepreneurs.

"But to spur lending to small businesses, it is essential that we make more credit available to the smaller banks and community financial institutions that these businesses depend on," he said.

Mr. Obama is making the change amid outrage over record payouts to financial executives, some of whom work at companies that needed Washington to bail them out with billions of taxpayer dollars last year. Administration officials have called the bonuses "offensive."

Meanwhile, the president says small businesses have created 65 percent of all new jobs in the U.S. in the past decade and a half. He also says more than half of all Americans working in the private sector are either employed by a small business or own one.