It’s hard not to feel the process is designed to frustrate and discourage applications. I must have started the application a dozen times before completing it successfully, I hope.
Since applications are through specific banks, I suspect each application platform is unique. Repeatedly, I was timed out before completing the application. There is no way to save your progress. The best I could do was take screenshots as I went along.
Each time an error message popped up, I took a screenshot. It was then necessary to start again at square one. Repeated error messages repeatedly stalled the process. There was no way to speak to a human for assistance. An email on Friday to tech support received an automated reply that promised a response “soon.” I’ve not yet received a response.
It was repeatedly necessary to “trick” the system to complete the application. For example, the platform did not like zeros when contained in fields asking for dollar amounts. My address is 2509; that zero worked fine, but try to enter $2,509.19 and you got “$259.19” Without any guidance, I was left to experiment to get the field to accept a monetary amount that contained a zero. Eventually, I discovered that the the cursor could be placed between the “5” and “9” and the “0” could then be inserted after typing the rest of the number.
I’m sure that flaw, and others, are a reflection of the urgency with which banks and the SBA were compelled to act. My business banker at the local branch continued to stay in email contact with me over the weekend, on his personal time. He advised me the application site would be down for maintenance for at least 2 hours starting at 3:00 pm EST on Saturday. Changes and improvements in the application process were obvious when I resumed the application after 7:00 pm. The zero glitch remained, however. I was resigned to getting stuck until being contacted by tech support.
I started again at square one and worked past prior hurdles. I got to the place where monthly payroll expenses were entered and needed to be supported by attached documentation. I expected to get another error message that I could screenshot and eventually share with tech support, but, surprisingly, it worked.
At the end it spoke of “e-initialing” and “e-signing” the completed application, but reading the instructions multiple times did not indicate how that was possible. Instead, I printed the application, initialed and signed the old fashioned way, scanned application and attached it to the online application.
JC and I, and other small business owners, went through this to help our employees, not to help ourselves. Without this “loan” we would be compelled to lay-off our employees and they would be compelled to draw unemployment. It’s disheartening to think that the financially sophisticated are abusing the spirit, if not the letter, of the Payroll Protection Program. Something is wrong when hedge fund managers can get low interest loans that dry up a fund intended to help individuals avoid unemployment.
The local banker followed up by email on Saturday evening to see how things went and to offer what little help he could. He seemed genuinely pleased to receive an email from me Saturday evening that contained a screenshot of an application confirmation.