New Small Business Administration head plans changes at agency; focus now is covid-19 - TribLIVE

New Small Business Administration head plans changes at agency; focus now is covid-19 - TribLIVE


New Small Business Administration head plans changes at agency; focus now is covid-19 - TribLIVE

Posted: 22 Mar 2021 05:04 AM PDT

NEW YORK — The new head of the Small Business Administration says she expects to make changes at the agency that she says will enable it to further help small companies devastated by the covid-19 pandemic.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Friday, two days after she was sworn in, Isabella Casillas Guzman said her immediate focus is implementing the small business provisions in the $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package President Joseph Biden signed into law last week.

The country has lost 400,000 businesses since the start of the pandemic, Guzman said, warning that "many more are at risk."

Guzman expects small business provisions in the rescue package to help, including $10 billion to support state lending to companies, and $100 million for a new program called Community Navigator aimed at giving education and advice to struggling business owners. But, she said, more vaccinations against coronavirus and the $1,400 stimulus payments millions of Americans are receiving will also ultimately aid business by helping the economy recover.

Those are indirect aid programs. The rescue package also included direct help in the form of additional money for the Paycheck Protection Program and more than $28 billion in grants for restaurants hammered by government-ordered shutdowns during the virus outbreak.

Guzman already knows how the SBA operates, having been a deputy chief of staff at the agency during the Obama administration.

"We'll be looking at our overall programs to see a path forward for small businesses," she said. Guzman acknowledged that the SBA's role has changed dramatically as a result of the pandemic; she said the agency has gotten attention it never had in the past.

The SBA's lending focus over the past year has been the PPP, which has approved nearly 8 million loans worth more than $700 billion. Before the pandemic, the agency's main lending vehicles were its 7(a) and 504 programs that owners turned to for loans to start and build their businesses. Those traditional lending programs may see some changes, Guzman said.

The administrator's agenda also includes improving SBA technology to make it more accessible to businesses; she noted that many businesses adopted or upgraded their technology in order to survive the virus outbreak.

"We just need to ensure that we've modernized the SBA," she said.

The SBA plans to use Community Navigator to gather information to help it determine what changes it needs to make, Guzman said. The program is aimed at working with community financial institutions and SBA-sponsored Small Business Development Centers to help struggling and disadvantaged businesses.

"That will provide us with a strong feedback loop from small businesses about what their needs are," Guzman said.

Before coming to the SBA, Guzman also served as director of California's Office of the Small Business Advocate. She has held positions at companies including ProAmerica Bank, a commercial bank in California, and GovContractPros, a consulting firm based in Chevy Chase, Maryland, that she co-founded.

Categories: Business | Wire stories

Small Business Administration to open grant application portal to dole out economic relief for 'shuttered' music venues - Orlando Weekly

Posted: 22 Mar 2021 02:10 PM PDT

click image Not for long, we hope - PHOTO COURTESY WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons
  • Not for long, we hope
The Small Business Administration is opening up a new way for owners of "shuttered" music venues to apply for much-needed grant relief in early April. And that might just be music to the ears of local venues still largely shut down after more than a year.

On April 8, the SBA will open an online portal for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant application program, with the goal to "provide a much-needed lifeline for live venues, museums, movie theaters" and related spaces.

SVOG is part of the massive economic stimulus package, the American Rescue Plan Act, signed on March 11 by President Biden. That relief bill added $1.25 billion to the cash reserves for grants to be made available for venues.

"We realize this is an enormous undertaking for the SBA and we appreciate everything the agency is doing to ensure this program is administered as Congress intended as expeditiously as possible," said live music industry lobbying group NIVA in a statement sent to Orlando Weekly. "To say we have been anxiously awaiting the day when we can apply for this emergency relief is an understatement."

For those needing some help navigating the bureaucracy (and you most likely will), the SBA will host a webinar to walk owners and managers through the application process at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 30. Registration for this free webinar can be done online.


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Small Business Administration announces funding opportunity for veterans business outreach center - NorthcentralPa.com

Posted: 22 Mar 2021 01:00 PM PDT

Washington, D.C. – Private organizations, colleges and universities, private sector firms, nonprofit organizations and state, local or tribal governmental agencies across Pennsylvania, Delaware, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Northern California, and Nevada are eligible to apply for funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration to provide training and counseling to aspiring and existing veteran small business owners as a Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC).

The grant awardees will provide training to service members and military spouses through the Boots to Business entrepreneurship training program, which is part of the Department of Defense's Transition Assistance Program. Additionally, applicants will provide counseling, technical and financial skill development, comprehensive business assessments, and mentoring services to veterans, transitioning and active-duty service members, Reserve, National Guard, and military spouses interested in starting or growing a small business.

"Our Veterans Business Outreach Centers play an integral role in supporting the military and veteran small business community throughout their entrepreneurial journey," said Larry Stubblefield, Associate Administrator for SBA's Office of Veterans Business Development. "With this new applicant pool, we hope to bring diverse ideas to the VBOC program and increase our ability to reach aspiring and current veteran entrepreneurs nationwide."

Each award is made for a base project period of 12 months, with four 12-month option periods, starting May 1, 2021. Additional information about the funding opportunity, including specific coverage areas and instructions on how to apply, can be found by heading to www.grants.gov and searching "SB-OVVB-21-001" or GrantSolutions.  

Applications submitted via other media, including SBA's website, will be rejected and will not be evaluated. Applications must be submitted via grants.gov no later than 11:59 p.m. EDT on Sunday, April 4, 2021. 

SBA's Office of Veterans Business Development will host information sessions about the funding opportunity via this Microsoft Teams link or this call-in number (202-765-1264; access code: 318 430 466#) at the following times:

  • Monday, March 22: 4-5 p.m. EDT
  • Friday, March 26: 12-1 p.m. EDT
  • Monday, March 29: 4-5 p.m. EDT
  • Friday, April 2: 12-1 p.m. EDT

 Direct any questions about the VBOC funding opportunity to Sandra Wells at sandra.wells@sba.gov.

For issues with grants.gov, please call the Grants.gov Support Line at 1-800-518-4726 or email support@grants.gov.

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Missing E-Tran controls saw SBA issue $692M in duplicate pandemic relief loans - FedScoop

Posted: 22 Mar 2021 12:55 PM PDT

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The Small Business Administration issued $692 million in duplicate pandemic relief loans because it failed to add the proper controls to its electronic application system, according to its Office of Inspector General.

E-Tran didn't always prevent duplicate Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans made between April 3 and Aug. 9, when the loans were disbursed. Reasons included the computer script for detection stopped working, lender submissions used employer identification numbers and Social Security Numbers interchangeably, and some buyers applied via multiple lenders, according to SBA OIG's report.

The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis requested the report, in part, because it wants to ensure E-Tran vulnerabilities are addressed before the remaining $150 billion in PPP loans are disbursed.

"Loans given to ineligible borrowers place taxpayer funds at risk of financial loss and delayed the amount of available critical capital needed for eligible businesses to withstand the effects of the pandemic during the first round of PPP funding," reads the report.

Congress appropriated $659 billion, all told, for PPP loans intended to cover struggling small businesses' payroll, rent and utilities.

About 4,260 borrowers received multiple PPP loans, despite SBA working with lenders to implement E-Tran controls in May. OIG found SBA temporarily turned off those controls between June 23 and 30 to resolve duplicate loans already identified with lenders, leading to more duplicate loans being made during that time.

OIG recommended SBA review potential duplicate loans and recover improper payments, review E-Tran controls to ensure those loans aren't forgiven, strengthen controls for future PPP-type programs, and improve guidance for lenders — all of which SBA agreed to do.

"The inspector general's report is consistent with the select subcommittee's findings last year that billions of dollars in PPP loans issued by the prior administration may have been diverted to fraud, waste and abuse," Rep. Jim Clyburn, a Democrat from South Carolina who chairs the subcommittee, said in a statement. "Today's report is yet more evidence of the Trump Administration's poor implementation of PPP, which ignored the intent of Congress by failing to get vital assistance to the neediest small businesses."

SBA argued it was unlikely that borrowers intentionally exploited E-Tran's initial vulnerabilities because only lenders have access, but OIG was quick to point out fraud still occurred.

The agency's loan review plan states PPP loans are subject to automated screening. But software company Giant Oak ran the Department of Justice's first 57 PPP loan fraud defendants through its GOST screening platform and found 25% of them had committed fraud previously that should have barred them from receiving relief, said CEO Gary Shiffman, who's also a Georgetown professor.

"That's a very strong indication that they weren't doing screening," Shiffman said. "And in their statements, they were trying to get the money out quickly, so they were relying on the investigation as the deterrent."

Most fraudsters assume the odds of an investigation into a loan less than $150,000 is low, and investigating fraud after the fact is "incredibly inefficient" compared to deterring it all together with screening, he added.

SBA did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Fraud occurred 16% of the time when the Federal Emergency Management Agency disbursed relief after hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which in PPP's case could mean as much as $105.4 billion in jeopardy, Shiffman said.

If SBA is committed to screening now, it will need to abandon static lists of past criminal convictions in favor of machine learning that examines patterns of fraudulent behavior, he said.

Machine-learning models can create prioritized lists of the highest to lowest threats, and if SBA vets the top 1%, then they've done a "phenomenal job," Shiffman said.

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