WASHINGTON (2/11/11)—Beating its ETA by a month, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced yesterday that its two new “advantage” lending programs will be up an running on Feb. 15. Qualified credit unions and other lenders can approve loans through the agency’s new Small Loan Advantage program starting on that date. Any financial institutions across the country in the SBA’s Preferred Lender Program (PLP), and there are 610 of them, can approve loans under this program. At the same time, the agency will begin accepting applications from community-based, mission-focused lenders who are interested in making SBA-guaranteed loans through the new Community Advantage program. Through Community Advantage, the agency will expand the points of access small business owners have for getting loans by opening SBA’s 7(a) loan program to “mission-focused” financial institutions, including Community Development Financial Institutions, SBA’s Certified Development Companies and SBA’s nonprofit microlending intermediaries. The new programs were announced in December and are part of the agency’s efforts to increase the number of lower-dollar loans being made to small businesses and entrepreneurs in underserved communities. The SBA has said that both the new programs offer a streamlined application process for SBA-guaranteed 7(a) loans up to $250,000. Advantage loans will come with the regular 7(a) government guarantee, 85% for loans up to $150,000 and 7% for those greater than $150,000. In conjunction with the implementation of these two new loan initiatives, SBA will end its Community Express pilot loan program on April 30.