The US Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) is set to resume operations after President Obama last week signed its long-term reauthorisation into law - in a move that will help businesses to secure financing for export.  

The bank, which has operated since 1934, was forced to shut earlier this year after a feuding Congress failed to renew its charter. The new reauthorisation will be in effect until 30 September 2019.

The Bank is an independent federal agency that fills gaps in private export finance in order to bolster US job growth. As the official export credit agency of the US federal government, it provides financial backing – usually in the form of loan guarantees – for the purchase of US-made goods.

"Exporters and their supply chains are critical to the country's economic health," said Ex-Im chairman and president Fred Hochberg. "Export focused businesses bring a host of benefits to their communities and local economies, including generally paying higher wages to their employees than non-export businesses."

The Bank offers a lifeline for many small businesses, providing around US$20bn in loans and financing annually to US firms to help them export their goods. The charter has now been renewed as part of the US$305bn surface transportation bill that passed Congress last week. 

The bill authorises budgetary resources for surface transportation programs for 2016-2020; reauthorises taxes that support the Highway Trust Fund through to 30 September 2022, and expenditures from that Fund through to 1 October 2020; and improves the Federal permit review process for major infrastructure projects.

One of the new requirements of the US Export-Import Bank is the establishment of an ethics office. It is understood the new ethics officer will recommend administrative actions to establish and enforce standards of ethical conduct for employees and contractors and report to the inspector general and appropriate federal or state authorities any "substantial evidence of a violation of any law applicable to the performance of official duties that may have been disclosed to the Office of Ethics."

The officer will report to the President and "oversee all issues relating to risk within the bank". The Bank is also required to set up a Risk Management Committee of top officials.

US Senator Jack Reed described the Export-Import Bank as "an important tool to help American companies compete in a global economy and sell more of their products overseas."

He added: "The Ex-Im Bank supports American exports abroad and jobs here at home. Ex-Im operates like a business and when Congress shuts it down like this, even temporarily, it can have a negative impact on American workers and our economy."

Other modifications to the Bank's operations include a reduction in the value of individual loans it can issue, increased small business lending requirements, and an annual audit by the Government Accountability Office to monitor for fraud.