Microfinance in the U.S.A. about to explode?

How would you like a couple thousand dollars to start your own business or keep it afloat? What if you have the idea for a business but lack a network of support and training to get started? If you have a business, or want to start one, with five or less employees then you're a microenterprise and qualify for a microloan.

There are non-profits near you that can help you get a microloan of up to $35,000 and the tools and training you need to use that loan to its fullest.

This is all part of the microlending phenomenon that's been slowly growing in our country for the past 30 years and is picking up steam as a result of the credit freeze. The stimulus bill that President Obama signs today will give $6 million to fund microloans this year and $24 million to market and manage microlending programs.

That money will be handled by the Small Business Administration, which relies on non-profits to vet and work with applicants. In order to qualify, your business must create new jobs and income for yourself and/or people with low-to-moderate income. Specific requirements vary, but can include having an active payment plan for current credit, no tax liens, and any bankruptcies must be at least a year old.

To find an organization near you that specializes in microloans and microenterprise support, check out this directory by the Aspin Institute's microfinancing program FIELD and this membership directory of the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO), the Arlington, Virginia-based trade organization for microenterprise development.

As the Associated Press reports, courtesy of iht.com, more people are turning to microloans, from art restorers in Manhattan to a Ukrainian immigrant running a pizzeria in Milwaukee.

According to the organization's website, "AEO estimates there are more than 24 million microenterprises in the U.S., representing 18% of all private employment and 87% of all businesses. One out of six U.S. private sector employees works for a microenterprise. Historically, microenterprises have been considered the backbone of the U.S. economy."

Dig around on AEO's section for entrepeneurs to see if a microloan is something you or someone you know could really use right now.

With the shaky banks holding onto their money, and people increasingly facing credit debt, microlending may be what the economy needs to grow jobs and businesses.

For the latest in small business news and advice, check out AOL Small Business
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