The Small Business Administration (SBA) is a Federal
agency founded in 1953
which "provides financial, technical and management assistance to help Americans start, run, and grow their businesses", according to the SBA's history
The SBA provides loans and venture capital to people attempting to start or maintain a small business; a "small business" being defined as:
"a business concern...organized for profit, with a place of business located in the United States. It must operate primarily within the United States or make a significant contribution to the U.S. economy through payment of taxes or use of American products, materials or labor. Together with its affiliates, it must meet the numerical size standards as defined in the Small Business Size Regulations, 13 CFR 121".
The permissable size of a small business depends on the industry of which the business is a part, and an exhaustive table is available on the SBA's website.
Unfortunately, use of the SBA's services is frequently abused by large food service corporations which want to franchise. Fast food chains can technically claim that each franchise is an independently owned "small business" and, as such, can use SBA funds for startup and insurance.
Eric Schlosser, in his book Fast Food Nation states that the fast food industry has effectively transformed "a federal agency that was created to help independent, small businesses into one that eliminates them". What Schlosser speaks of here is relevant to the block busting tactic employed by franchised corporations in all sorts of manifestations.
Also, according to Schlosser and his research, the SBA guaranteed almost $1 billion in loans to new franchisees in 1996, and more of these loans went to the fast food industry than to any other. The Subway chain of sandwich shops benefitted the most from SBA loans, with 109 out of 755 new Subways opened in 1996 relying on financing from the SBA.
This is yet another unfortunate instance of the dominant mode of neoliberal capitalist profit making: the costs of business are socialized while the profits are privatized.
Information from both Fast Food Nation