The Small Business Administration’s Disaster Loan Program for Small Businesses got off to a rough start as businesses hit by the coronavirus pandemic complain about the inability to file their loan applications online.
Small business owners and their advocates, including Jen Earle, executive director of the National Association of Women Business Owners, said loan seekers could not access the online application site or were turned down before they could. complete their request.
In response to complaints, the agency adopted a new system in which loan seekers download application forms and manually fill them out before uploading them to the agency’s website, according to business owners looking for loans. . This change meant that business owners who started the process but did not complete it had to re-enter their information a second time.
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Disaster lending assistance, provided through the Economic Disaster Lending Program, is among the first steps the SBA is taking to help small businesses affected by the virus outbreak. The program is separate from the $ 349 billion in loan guarantees included in the recovery plan for the coronavirus passed by Congress and signed by President Trump on Friday. The program allows the SBA to lend up to $ 2 million directly to each qualified applicant as working capital under a measure signed on March 6. The program received $ 7 billion in available funds.
Tom Lussenhop, president of U3 Ventures, a Philadelphia real estate developer with three employees, said he spent nearly eight hours typing information into the agency’s online portal between Thursday and Saturday a week ago , only to see the site crash Sunday before he filled out his request.
Since the website relaunched with a new format on Wednesday, it has been struggling to complete a downloaded application form, fearing it would be double counted due to the previous online account.
“It’s frustrating,” said Lussenhop, who expects his company’s revenues to fall 40% in April. This is when some of its tenants, including a restaurant, should stop paying their rent. “It’s not a $ 10 million loan. It’s a loan of $ 50,000.
Aaron VanderGalien, a senior partner at Deksia, a marketing agency in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which has 18 employees and has seen its income drop by more than a third, said the loan application itself was confusing.
Since the loan application is designed for natural disasters and not economic, it asks borrowers to estimate how much they have lost for categories like real estate, inventory, and equipment.
“I have no idea how much I requested,” said VanderGalien, who completed his request on March 20. “There is nowhere to put an amount.”
Tony Wright, owner of WrightIMC, a digital marketing agency in Dallas with 15 employees, called the SBA hotline after being kicked out of the system on Tuesday.
He was told it was number 757 in the queue; the wait was around 2 hours and 45 minutes, he said.
Once reinstated, Mr Wright said he spent seven hours working on his request before finally giving up for the day. He spent Thursday re-entering the forms and then submitting the PDF, after the SBA changed its process.
“I only received confirmation on the website that the forms were submitted,” not an email or other notification, said Wright, who estimates business is down by nearly 50%. %. “I hope they are not lost in the ether.”
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