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SBA taps cloud for loan forgiveness platform

government cloud 

The Small Business Administration (SBA) brought on a commercial software-as-a-service platform to handle lender applications for its Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness processing, but lawmakers are concerned about tech glitches.

The SBA/Treasury Department's PPP program promised to forgive emergency loans to businesses that retained their employees as the COVID-19 crisis moved forward. The PPP program, according to SBA, distributed over $525 billion, approving over five million loans through lenders. It began accepting forgiveness applications from lenders on Aug. 10.

The SBA has contracted for a turnkey commercial SaaS package to handle loan forgiveness applications under the PPP, William Manger, SBA administrative chief of staff told a Sept. 24 House Small Business Innovation and Workforce Development subcommittee hearing.

The system that handles PPP loan forgiveness applications from lenders, he told Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.) during the hearing, is not the agency's E-Trans system, but a specialized commercial, off-the-shelf platform already used by commercial lenders.

According to contracting documents, the SBA inked a $92 million contract in June with Reston, Va.-based mentor/small business partnership Goldschmitt and Associates, Inc. and Central Research, Inc.

The SaaS platform, according to the documents, is based on Amazon Web Services and handles forgiveness applications and the associated loan documentation. It is required to support up to five million applications and associated documentation, according to the contracting documents, and host up to 25,000 concurrent users.

Despite the massive capacity, Houlahan said she had been hearing from banking industry lenders that they were having issues with the forgiveness applications on the SBA system.

Lenders, she said, are "struggling right now because they're trying to get things through the pipeline in forgiveness but are receiving a lot of error messages that a lot of the data is wrong, that they're ending up with a very, very small percent of what they submit being accepted the first time around."

In response, Manger told Houlahan that SBA had worked closely with the contractors to modify the platform for the forgiveness program. He said since it was a cloud platform, capacity was not an issue.

Manger said the problems sounded like data input issues and told Houlahan he would consult with the contractor on the issue.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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