The Small Business Administration – The Disaster during The Covid-19 Disaster

U.S. Small Business Administration Logo

I’ll start by saying that the company I own and operate has been in business since late 2007. In nearly 13 years of being in business we have never applied for funding through the SBA or anywhere else as we didn’t need it. Personally I absolutely hate owing money be it to a person or to an organization.

I have heard from other business owners that working with the Small Business Administration, or the SBA for short, isn’t easy and that even if you qualify you’ve got a 50% chance of approval. I do know a few small businesses that have SBA loans for business property.

Fast forward to March 28th, 2020 when I applied for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan, or EIDL for short, at SBA.gov. I received an application number of less than 20,000 for the region – a very early application. Another small business that is a vendor of ours applied the following day and their application was in the 200,000 range.

The SBA pulled my personal credit report from Experian on April 12th, 2020 and the EIDL Advance was deposited into our business account on April 13th, 2020. This was good news – it meant that our application was actually being processed. It is worth noting that at this point there has still been zero communication from the SBA regarding our application.

I received an email on April 18th, 2020 at 10:49 AM ET with the subject line, “SBA Application No. 33000##### – Submitted Confirmation”. Inside of this email it said, “Your SBA Application No. 33000##### is ready for the next step. Create your SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan Portal account to provide additional details or requested documents.” A big green button in the email said “Create Account.”

I thought, “Great! We’ve moved on to the next step of the process!” I signed into the portal and was asked to verify my identify – the standard things you see when you pull your own credit reports. Did you live at X, Y, Z, or none of the above in 1990, did you finance a vehicle from A, B, C, or none of the above in 2005, etc. I answered all of the questions accurately but was told that my information didn’t match.

I was a bit concerned due to my information ‘not matching’ when I was absolutely certain I had given the right answers. The portal assured me that my application would continue processing and that a loan agent would reach out to verify my identity further.

About 5 hours later I reloaded the portal and it did, in fact, show that my application was approved and my identity had been verified. This was good news… or so I thought. Just before bed I decided to log into the portal and truth be told I’m not sure why I checked the portal again – but it’s good that I did. Upon loading up the portal before bed I saw that our application had been “Declined.”

The portal does explicitly state, “Decision details will be communicated by email” under “Suggested Next Step.” I reached out to the SBA via the phone number listed in the portal and I was told that my application was denied due to a “Fraud Alert” on my credit report. Prior to calling the SBA I pulled all 3 of my personal credit reports and there are no indications of fraud alerts or unusual activity. I explained to the representative that there is no fraud alert on my report but I did understand that the agent I was talking to had no power to resolve this. They stated they were noting my application and escalating it for re-review.

I reached back out to the SBA the following day, April 19th, 2020, to confirm the status of my application – to make sure it really was queued for re-review. I was told that this was not the case and that there was no such thing. I was told that I must send an email to “pdcrecons@sba.gov” in order to get my application back in the queue.

On April 19th, 2020 I did send an email to pdcrecons@sba.gov as requested by the SBA agent I spoke with. I received no confirmation of my email and to be honest I have no way of knowing if this email actually routed anywhere that anybody will see it. Being in Information Technology myself and dealing mail servers on a daily basis I was curious and I pulled up the mail logs to confirm, at minimum, acceptance by the SBA.gov mail servers:

2020-04-19 09:46:24 1jQAH9-0001Zp-Er SMTP connection outbound 1587303984 1jQAH9-0001Zp-Er redacted.com pdcrecons@sba.gov
2020-04-19 09:46:26 1jQAH9-0001Zp-Er => pdcrecons@sba.gov R=dkim_lookuphost T=dkim_remote_smtp H=primary.us.etp.fireeyegov.com [15.200.32.1] X=TLS1.2:DHE-RSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384:256 CV=yes C="250 2.0.0 B568016230365C9E527bd69e0 mail accepted for delivery"
2020-04-19 09:46:26 1jQAH9-0001Zp-Er Completed

Due to the fact that I had received no positive confirmation of the email I had sent, I wanted to see if the SBA.gov actually bounced anything if you reached out to an invalid email. In this case I emailed aslkfjal@sba.gov. The SBA.gov mail servers accepted this message without error or confirmation – so who really knows if my email got somewhere? Not me.

2020-04-19 10:09:46 [15958] 1jQAdi-00049D-Qx => aslkfjal@sba.gov R=dnslookup T=remote_smtp_batv H=primary.us.etp.fireeyegov.com [15.200.32.2] I=[162.244.253.254] X=TLSv1.2:DHE-RSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384:256 CV=yes C="250 2.0.0 31B3067729AB5C9E5079e00ed mail accepted for delivery"
2020-04-19 10:09:46 [15958] 1jQAdi-00049D-Qx Completed

I called the SBA again today on April 24th, 2020 to see if there had been any movement on our application. The only thing the agent could tell me is that the application was denied on April 18th at 6:01 PM ET and that I needed to email the SBA for reconsideration. I explained to the agent that I had sent the email but received no confirmation and zero contact. She explained that with as busy as they are nobody is going to personally reach out to me.

I explained that I’m not looking for personal contact or a phone call – but just for somebody to at least confirm my reconsideration email was received and that our application will, at some point in the future, be re-reviewed. She started again on how busy they are and how I wasn’t going to get anything but an email and no phone calls.

For clarity we are not looking for special treatment, but just for our application to be reviewed appropriately. Honestly I don’t care if it takes 3 days or 3 weeks – so long as I know it will happen. I have a very strong feeling that the funds for the program will dry up and our application won’t have been reviewed again.

Most concerning about all of this is the total lack of communication from the SBA regarding the status of our application. The portal itself states that an email will be sent with the reason for the denial – and none has arrived. I have checked our incoming mail logs just to make sure we didn’t somehow miss any emails and we haven’t.

Apparently the SBA feels that a simple confirmation email of your reconsideration request is too much. There is nobody at the SBA that I can get in contact with that can even tell me that I sent in a reconsideration email much less what it contains therein.

I’m not sure how I’m supposed to trust the SBA when they claim they will do things they are simply not doing. We, as small businesses, have zero visibility into the SBA all while the SBA isn’t communicating effectively and we’re supposed to have faith that the SBA won’t drop the ball.

I suspect our application being denied is simple human error – simple human error that very well may result in economic damage to our company over the coming months. As it stands right now the impacts of the virus on our business have been minimal but every day we are receiving more and more cancellations due to the virus. Every day we are having more of our clients asking to defer or reduce their billing due to the virus.

I’m not asking for a fast-track or special treatment – all I’m asking for is communication. That said I’m not asking for communication simply for our sake – but for the sake of all businesses that have applied for SBA EIDL funding. So many have heard nothing one way or the other and then there are those that have applied, been denied erroneously, and requested reconsideration and heard nothing.

The notice on SBA.gov after filling in details to “Verify Identity”
The SBA.gov EIDL Portal showing the application completed and ready for submission including Verify Identity as Completed.
The SBA.gov EIDL Portal showing that our application is being processed.
The SBA.gov EIDL Portal showing that we were declined and stating “Decision details will be communicated via email.” Decision details have still not been communicated.
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