The eagerly anticipated second round of federal stimulus loans aimed at helping small businesses pay employees during the coronavirus outbreak rolled out on Monday, when the system processing loans almost immediately came to a halt before it began working again sluggishly several hours later.
Within minutes of opening to applications at 10:30 a.m., the U.S. Small Business Administration’s E-Tran loan processing system went down, and started working again just before 2 p.m., according to spokespeople from Camden National Bank and Bangor Savings Bank.
The system went down after three minutes of going live, said Camden National spokesperson Renee Smyth. The bank continued to accept applications after the program ran out of its first round of funding. Smyth said Camden National has more than 300 applications to be submitted.
Bangor Savings Bank spokesperson Kate Rush said the SBA told the bank to “continue to try and be patient.” She said the bank has 1,000 applications worth $40 million in loan requests ready to enter into the system. Of the 1,000 applications, 250 were submitted during the first round of stimulus loans but weren’t processed after that funding ran out.
“‘Sluggish’ performance is reported, but we are currently processing applications,” Rush said. The system isn’t running at full capacity, she said, and there are periods of time when it isn’t working.
Machias Savings Bank also tried to process applications throughout the day but found the SBA site “seemingly crashing intermittently,” said bank spokesperson Dan Cashman.
Congress and the White House reached a deal last Tuesday approving another $322 billion for the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program. That program provides loans capped at $10 million and forgives them if at least 75 percent of the money is spent on payroll and the rest on other necessities like rent.
Applications for the first tranche of $349 billion opened on April 3, and while there were initial hiccups, the money was gone within 13 days. This time around, those who didn’t get money the first time plus newcomers are creating a much longer queue for the loans, according to a CNN poll of industry experts.
“If I were betting, I would guess the money is gone in two and a half or three days,” one industry expert told CNN.
About one in 10 small businesses in Maine, or 16,000 companies, received a total of more than $2.2 billion from the first batch of loans, according to the office of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican who championed the program as part of a $2.2 trillion stimulus package aimed at the coronavirus outbreak.