WASHINGTON, D.C. — You’ve likely heard of the “Paycheck Protection Program,” but there’s another taxpayer-funded relief program that is giving out tens of billions of dollars and not getting the same attention.
“We’re much stronger and at a stable, operational staff level today,” said James Rivera, the Small Business Administration (SBA) employee leading the EIDL program.
While one form of these loans has long existed for businesses and communities hit by natural disasters, a new version was created back in March strictly for coronavirus.
To date, over two million COVID-EIDL loans have been given out, worth nearly $130 billion.
In Ohio, 45,000 loans have been processed, totaling over $2.6 billion.
Rivera testified that his team is finally getting in a groove after staffing up and temporarily shutting down the application portal several times to get caught up.
But bipartisan frustration with the EIDL program was on display during the hearing.
“When small business owners are left with limited information, common, everyday business decisions become difficult,” Representative Steve Chabot (R, 1st Congressional District) said.
Chabot, who represents the Cincinnati-area, is the top Republican on the House Small Business Committee.
As he’s visited businesses in his district, he said many owners have complained about a lack of communication from the SBA, specifically about the status of loans and the amount a business may get.
The Democratic chair of the committee, New York Rep. Nydia Velazquez, said there’s also been confusion because loans of up to $2 million are available, but many business owners were told they could only get $150,000.
“Small businesses looking to the SBA for help were essentially told ‘take it or leave it, regardless of need or size,’” she said. “And then told to have a nice day.”
Rivera said the average EIDL loan has been $61,000, and there’s a reason most businesses qualify for only $150,000.
“We could’ve done a better job communicating that it’s based on six months of working capital, it’s not based on whatever loan amount that you’re requesting,” he said. “It’s different than a traditional bank loan, from that perspective.”
Rivera added that the SBA has been able to significantly decrease the amount of time it takes to process an EIDL loan, from an average of 41 days to five days.
Another issue highlighted in the hearing was a period of time when only farmers were allowed to apply for these loans.
Rivera didn’t have exact answers for the reasoning, which lawmakers pointed to as another example of bad communication.