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Maryland banks complain of blocked access to new round of relief funding for small-business clients during pandemic

Many of the small businesses in Maryland that had waited in limbo for a new round of federal coronavirus relief loans were still waiting after the program reopened Monday.

The Small Business Administration reopened the Paycheck Protection Program after Congress last week approved an additional $310 billion for the forgivable loans. The SBA began taking small businesses’ applications through banks at 10:30 a.m. Monday.

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SBA-approved lenders expected to first push through applications of those businesses that had applied for loans but had not been approved before the $350 billion funding ran out April 16. The Maryland Bankers Association said banks and small businesses across the state were prepared to upload applications Monday morning.

But because of access difficulties, most applications still were waiting to be uploaded late in the day, the association said.

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“Banks of all sizes across Maryland have been reporting significant difficulties accessing the E-Tran system, beginning at 10:31 a.m. today," said Kathleen Murphy, the group’s CEO and president.

The program has been a lifeline for the more than 26,000 Maryland small businesses that already have received loans, designed to pay employees and other business expenses during the pandemic.

But “for those with pending applications, MBA’s member banks share the frustration and angst they are hearing from their small-business clients,” she said.

One member bank said it was able to submit only five of 80 loan applications in a four-hour period, she said.

Murphy said banks have continued to upload applications around the clock to try to overcome access problems. The association urged the SBA to address the access difficulties as quickly as possible and said it would continue to monitor the status of the system.

“While we deeply appreciate the herculean efforts of U.S. Treasury and SBA to launch and relaunch this massive program, within a very tight time frame, it is crucial that these technology access challenges be resolved as quickly as possible,” Murphy said.

The association represents community, regional and national bank members that operate more than 1,400 branch offices and employ more than 28,000 people in Maryland.

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