Small business loan program plagued by outages, delays as second wave of aid begins

The electronic system the Small Business Administration is using to process new applications for government-backed aid has been plagued by technical glitches since it launched on Monday morning, users said.

The Paycheck Protection Program, an integral part of the government's massive economic stimulus effort, was injected with an additional $310 billion for small businesses last week.

But "E-Tran,” the SBA’s electronic loan guarantee system, has been beset by technical errors and access issues since the second wave of funding for the low-interest loan program launched Monday. Banks must use "E-Tran" to authorize the loans.

The SBA did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

"Unless you help with the lack of available site access to ETRAN, community banks that serve the small business market won’t be able to loan any of it," one user wrote on Twitter. "I’m sure you’re aware that many of us have been trying to input loans for approval only to be kicked off the site."

At the heart of the program are loans that the federal government will forgive if small businesses use at least 75 percent of the money on maintaining payroll.

The program exhausted its initial $349 billion in funding within 13 days and was heavily criticized for granting multimillion-dollar loans to big, publicly traded companies — even as small businesses languished financially.

But the second wave of funding will likely differ slightly: Last week, the Small Business Administration tightened the rules of which businesses qualified for the low-interest loans and pressured public companies that tapped the fund to return the money. Companies applying for the relief must now certify that the loans are necessary and prove they can't turn to another source for help.

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