U.S. Small Business Administration capital assistance to the Houston region has increased by 29% since 2015, and individual loan amounts have increased by 44%, according to information from the agency that includes its most recent numbers for fiscal year 2018-19.

The U.S. SBA does not provide the loans but works with lenders to reduce the risk, according to the SBA website.

The Houston district of the U.S. SBA serves 32 counties in and around Houston, including Harris, Montgomery, Fort Bend, Brazoria and Galveston counties, according to Valerie Maher, the lead economic development specialist for the Houston region. The U.S. SBA helps small businesses start, grow, expand and recover, according to information on the agency's website.

“Small businesses drive the nation’s economy. ... Over 99% of the businesses in Houston are considered small by our standards,” Maher said at the Nov. 13 Lone Star College Small Business Development Center awards luncheon.

The SBA definition for a small business varies by industry but is generally based on the number of employees or the amount of revenue the business has. For example, a manufacturing or processing firm such as an airline or refinery could have up to 1,500 employees or a service firm in an industry such as software publishing or oil/gas support could have up to $41.5 million in annual revenue to be considered a small business.

According to SBA statistics, hotels and motels topped the 20 industries receiving small-business loans in the Greater Houston area in FY 2018-19, with an average $2.56 million per loan, followED by child day care centers, which received $1.72 million per loan on average.

The total amount of capital assistance in the Houston region for FY 2018-19, $1.05 billion, represents a 0.6% decrease from the previous year but a 29% increase since 2015, according to U.S. SBA records.

Harris County topped the Houston-area counties that received loans through the SBA, with $539.85 million in loans, or an average of $722,686 per loan among the 747 recorded in 2018-19—almost 60% of the total loans obtained in the region. Montgomery County had 115 businesses receive a total of $86.49 million in loans, or $752,077 on average per loan.

The SBA also provides direct government loans in the event of certain disasters such as Tropical Storm Imelda, which hit the Greater Houston area in September. It provided 601 home loans, totaling $31.39 million, but only 14 business loans, totaling $617,500, as of the Nov. 13 presentation. By contrast, Hurricane Harvey resulted in $2.96 billion in home loans and $450 million in business loans.