The fate of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, a key lender for many small companies that do business overseas, again hangs in the balance.
The bank's fund runs out Sept. 30. While the bank's charter technically expired June 30, it continues to service loans with terms of up to 18 years. Adding to the drama, the U.S. government could potentially shutdown Oct. 1 if a budget agreement is not reached. However, the bank's reauthorization is not directly tied to the federal budget process.
Known as "Ex-Im" for short, the bank is a financial lifeline and safety net for many small businesses that export goods in foreign markets than can be risky. The bank provides loans and insurance to support exports. President Barack Obama has been a vocal supporter of renewing Ex-Im's funding, calling the move a "no brainer" over the summer.
For small business owners such as Mary Howe, the potential closure could reduce her access to working capital. Howe's family business, Howe Corp. in Chicago, exports up to 40 percent of its industrial refrigeration equipment to places including Central America and Canada.
And if the Ex-Im Bank's funding isn't renewed? "Our backup plan is to self-fund; it's going to get tight," Howe said.
The Senate voted in July to fund Ex-Im as part of a longer-term highway bill, which has since moved to the House for consideration.
The vote in the U.S. Senate on the bill was a strong signal of bipartisan support for the Ex-Im bank and "businesses and workers that we have empowered in the past to grow their exports," the bank's Chairman Fred P. Hochberg said in an email statement to CNBC. Ex-Im Bank has been funded for some 80 years.