SBA taps cloud for loan forgiveness platform

The Small Business Administration is using a commercial off the shelf software as a services platform to process applications for its loan forgiveness relief program.

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.