A new collaboration initiative between the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the U.S. Treasury Department could have far-reaching implications in the ability for startups to acquire new loans and raise capital. Under the new plan, if small banks can show they support small-business lending, they'll have access to a portion of government funds which they can borrow at a 3% dividend rate.

To qualify for the program, a banks assets must total less than $1 billion. They will also be required to submit a formal plan outlining how they will disperse the money to small businesses to help fledgling companies get off the ground.

In a recent speech in Maryland, President Barack Obama says he hopes the initiative will help jumpstart relationships between banks and local startups. "There are still too many entrepreneurs who can't get the loan they need to open their doors and start hiring. 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 don't have the capital to do it," he said.

President Obama also came out in support of a policy change that will allow the SBA to loan as much as $5 million, instead of the current $2 million. The ceiling on SBA-backed microloans would also increase from #35,000 to $50,000.

As CNNMoney.com's Catherine Clifford notes, this is the second time the administration has tried this approach. "As part of February's stimulus package, Congress allocated $730 million to the SBA to temporarily waive fees and increase the guarantees the agency offers banks that make qualifying small business loans. Despite those measures, SBA lending continued to fall, dropping 36% in the 2009 fiscal year compared to a year earlier," she says.

"Now Treasury is trying to address the problem by going at it from the other end: Make cheap capital available to small banks, in hopes they'll use it to increase their local lending."

Flickr image courtesy of Omar Omar.