SBA plan includes system upgrades, customer support

Budget of the United States Government Fiscal Year 2001

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Upgrading the Small Business Administration's computer systems and increasing technical assistance to its customers are the key information technology projects the agency hopes to tackle this year.

In its fiscal 2001 budget, SBA is asking for more than $24 million for the modernization, improvement and restoration of its computer network. About $13 million would be used to upgrade SBA's internal systems, $7 million would be used for IT upgrades, and $4 million would be used for staff training and development.

"The modernization will have a dramatic impact on our ability to not only serve our customers, but [to] collect data and evaluate programs," said Aida Alvarez, SBA administrator. "This will allow us to save money and time and help us move toward our goal of paperless transactions."

The Office of Advocacy is asking for $1.5 million for technology research and database improvements. The SBA is asking for $750,000 for its Pro-Net System that provides information on government procurement opportunities.

The agency also is asking for $8 million to build a lender monitoring system which would provide "effective oversight of its lenders and continue to the development of its cost accounting." About $5 million is proposed to decrease the processing time of disaster loans through a paperless loan application system.

About $95 million is included in SBA's proposed budget for technology assistance programs including:

* $30 million for the New Market venture Capital Program, which is designed to increase technical assistance to women and minorities and to businesses in moderate-income rural areas and inner cities.

* $45 million for the Microloan program, which provides loans under $150,000 without collateral to small businesses.

* $15 million for the PRIME program which helps individuals, small businesses and micro-enterprise leaders with business development.

* $5 million for technical assistance for companies participating in the small- and disadvantaged-business procurement program.

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