The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – BBB Explains the Benefits for Small Business Owners

January 13, 2010

On February 17, President Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—an economic stimulus plan totaling $787 billion in federal spending and tax cuts.  For small business owners who don’t want to wade through the actual document, the Better Business Bureau offers a summary on some items in the stimulus package that might benefit them.

The main goal of the stimulus package is to spur job creation—Congressional Budget Office estimates that employment could increase by as much as 3.6 million jobs by 2010—with the concept being that more jobs will provide additional assistance to struggling consumers and businesses.  For business owners, this means increased federal spending on projects—such as funding for the U.S. Small Business Administration to assist businesses with financing needs—and small businesses can also look forward to some tax breaks.

“The stimulus package is addressing the troubled economy from many angles, and while most of us will receive benefits as an individual through tax breaks, there are perks for business owners as well,” said Barb Grieman, interim president of the Better Business Bureau of MN and ND.  “Experts agree that a healthy job market goes hand-in-hand with a healthy economy, and frankly, many businesses need the help immediately to stem the tide of employee lay offs.”

Following are examples of how the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will benefit small businesses nationwide:

Small Business Financing

The U.S. Small Business Administration will receive $730 million from the stimulus package—more than doubling their operating budget from 2008— to help assist businesses with financing.

According to a press release from the SBA, funds will be divided among many programs including: 

  • $375 million for temporary fee reductions or eliminations on SBA loans, and for increased SBA guaranteed shares, up to 90 percent for some loans;
  • $255 million for a new loan program to help small businesses meet existing debt payments; and 
  • $30 million to expand SBA's Microloan program, enough to finance up to $50 million in new lending and $24 million in technical assistance grants to micro lenders. 

For complete details on how the U.S. Small Business Administration will use the new funding from the stimulus package and how small businesses can benefit, go to

Small Business Tax Breaks

  • Qualified Property Expense Increased.  The ceiling on the Section 179 tax break—allowing companies to expense qualified assets in the first year of service—has been increased from $133,000 to $250,000 in the first year that qualifying assets are placed in service.  
  • Bonus Depreciation Extended.  Originally instituted in 2008, businesses will again be able to take an additional bonus depreciation expense of up to 50 percent of the cost of newly acquired fixed assets.  
  • Loss Carry Back Expanded.  Only available to companies with sales less than $15 million, a business which incurs operating losses in tax years ending after December 31, 2007, can offset such losses against income earned in previous years and obtain a refund on previously paid taxes.  Losses can now be carried back for five years instead of two.  
  • Vehicle Depreciation Expense Increased.  The depreciation expense for passenger vehicles in their first year of service—limited only to those placed into service in 2009—was increased from $2,960 to $10,960.  The depreciation expense for light trucks and vans increased from $3,160 to $11,160.

Industry and State-Specific Benefits

The stimulus package will provide state and local governments with billions of dollars to fund assistance programs and infrastructure projects, such as road construction or mass transit development.  More details on how state-specific funding will be dispersed and which projects will benefit will be announced soon.

Green businesses will also see a benefit, including $20 billion dollars set aside for companies that produce solar panels and wind turbines, $6 billion in loan guarantees for renewable energy projects, and a 30 percent tax break for investments in wind and solar energy.

Additional information on the stimulus package can be found at

For more small business advice from your BBB including tips for surviving a tough economy, go to