The Small Business Administration (SBA) is a United States government agency that helps Americans start, build and grow small businesses. You might be thinking, “Yawn, what could possibly be shocking or exciting about that?” Well, not so fast.

Related: 7 Loan Programs Offered by the SBA

There is actually plenty that’s interesting about this agency. Here are five facts about the SBA that just might shock you.

1. The SBA does not actually loan money to small businesses.

Most folks have heard the term “SBA loan,” though many might not know that the SBA does not actually make loans directly to small businesses. Instead, the agency provides a guarantee to, and sets guidelines for, SBA loans actually made by banks, credit unions, community development organizations and microlending institutions. Importantly, the SBA guarantee enables lenders to loan to small businesses they would not have been able to help previously.

2. The SBA costs taxpayers zero.

"Government spending" is a buzzword you hear over and over, especially in an election year. However, don’t bring up the SBA when you talk about spending cuts, because the SBA funds all of its own operations with the guarantee fee it collects from borrowers. SBA loans over $150,000 also carry a guarantee fee, which is typically 2 percent to 3 percent of the loan amount. What this means is that the macro economic benefit the country gets from the 45,000 businesses that annually secure a low-cost SBA loan annually accrues to the U.S. economy without costing taxpayers a dime.

3. SBA loans fuel the U.S. economy.

SBA loans help American businesses and the entire U.S. economy grow. The numbers say it all: In 2014, small businesses created over 2 million new jobs, while small businesses employ more than 50 percent of the nation's entire workforce. SBA loans each year also amount to more than $20 billion borrowed by small businesses which may not have otherwise secured low-cost funding.

Related: The Feds Have $2.5B Available to Fund Innovative Small Companies

4. The SBA offers much more than loans.

Even back in the 1950s, the government realized the importance of small businesses to the economy. The SBA’s philosophy and mission started to take shape as a response to the pressures of the Great Depression and World War II. President Dwight Eisenhower proposed creation of a new small business agency, and the SBA was accordingly formed in 1953.

But if you just think “loans” when you hear "SBA," you’re only partially right. Today, the SBA has a variety of services to help the American entrepreneur succeed. Programs include helping small businesses secure government contracts as well as secure outreach to women, minorities and armed forces veterans.

Additionally, the SBA’s Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) offer “concierge service” to help small businesses grow. Small business owners can contact their local center with business questions or problems and get expert answers and potential solutions. SBDCs' services also include one-on-one management consulting, workshops to evaluate business ideas, business plan assistance and financing option guidance.

Group training programs, as well, cover topics from start-up basics to marketing, accounting, financing, taxes and more. Workshops are offered free, or for a low fee if they occur on a regular basis. SBDCs can be found across the nation; to find your local SBDC, check here.

5. SBA loans are the 'gold standard' for small business growth.

Small business owners should begin their financing search with an SBA loan. SBA loans are traditionally the "gold standard" for businesses; any business that can obtain one should generally take it. SBA loans offer some of the lowest rates, longest terms and lowest payments on the market.

These loan proceeds can then be used for a variety of purposes, including working capital, marketing, hiring, equipment purchases and the buying or refinancing of commercial real estate, the acquisition of a business, the buyout of a partner and other uses.

One particularly popular use for SBA loans in today’s economy is the refinancing of existing high-cost loans. That move lowers overall monthly debt payments and improves business cash flow. Since 2008, when many large banks pulled out of the smaller sub-$1 million business loan market, alternative lenders have filled the funding gap, with fast, yet very expensive, loans.

Many small business owners trapped in these high-cost loans can now secure an SBA loan to help improve their financial health. Businesses that pay off high-cost debt with low-interest SBA loans save thousands of dollars each month.

Although the traditional offline SBA loan process is seen as long and cumbersome, online providers have dramatically streamlined the process. Borrowers can now prequalify for a low-cost oan online in only five minutes without impacting their credit scores, and loans can be funded as fast as seven days after completion of the application.

Related: When Seeking an SBA Loan, Remember the 5 C's

The online marketplace also drives up approval rates because the right borrower is referred to the right bank.