Many small banks waiting to access gov't funds

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Many small community banks are growing frustrated about their inability to access the government's $700 billion financial rescue fund, nearly two months after large banks began tapping the fund for much-needed capital.

Trade groups representing the banks complain that the delay is putting smaller institutions at a competitive disadvantage to publicly traded banks, more than 50 of which have received capital injections.

"They took care of Wall Street first, and it seems like Main Street got left behind," said Cynthia Blankenship, vice chairwoman of Bank of the West in Irving, Texas, which has $250 million in assets. Blankenship is also chairwoman of the Independent Community Bankers of America.

Some small banks, especially in areas such as California and Florida where the housing slump hit hardest, carry troubled real estate loans and likely would benefit from the government cash, Blankenship said.

Publicly traded banks have been eligible since the Treasury Department began the $250 billion capital injection program Oct. 14. The department opened it on Nov. 17 to about 3,800 small, privately held banks. A few publicly traded community banks already have received government money.

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