Banks

America’s 30 million small businesses are facing an unprecedented challenge as COVID-19 requires people to stay at home, and business owners to shut down to prevent the spread of the virus.

Many Main Street businesses — upon which the economy relies on for commerce, employment and a local tax base — hold less than 10 days of revenue.

This is especially true in the service industry where this week’s revenue is next week’s paycheck. These businesses, and their employees, simply cannot recover from 10 days of lost revenue. Necessary containment and quarantine measures that last for weeks or months risk putting the small business economy — and millions of employees — out of work.

“To wake up one day and assume everyone in America is going to be above average at math and above average rational is crazy,” says Ethan Bloch.

The White House has quickly learned that public health programs will need the more agile private sector to implement, automate and expedite COVID-19 testing and treatment. Similar partnerships are essential to save small businesses.

The administration and Congress must move forward immediately in their ongoing efforts to streamline and automate emergency small business lending (or grants), injecting working capital into small businesses swiftly at low-to-no interest. America’s entrepreneurs and small business employees can’t wait; they need operating cash now.

There is no one cure to this crisis, but a variety of treatments from public and private sector partnerships can quickly alleviate the economic suffering by scaling and expediting the Small Businesses Administration’s response.

The process for the SBA’s emergency loans was designed for localized physical disasters. Processing can take weeks and most small businesses have just days to find ways to keep the doors open, and employee paychecks coming.

The Senate’s $2 trillion economic relief package passed Wednesday places the SBA in charge of the Paycheck Protection Program, which will distribute nearly $350 billion to small businesses that can be partially forgiven if certain requirements are met. This is a step in the right direction.

The key is getting capital into the hands of small business owners efficiently and without fraud and duplications. Cutting-edge tools often provided through fintechs can offer loan approvals in just minutes, with funds delivered the next day.

Automated, near-instant credit models can be adapted to meet the SBA’s verification standards with easy and transparent reporting tools for public oversight. Private-sector partners stand ready to help the SBA scale to meet this economic crisis.

The American economy faces an unprecedented challenge that may take years to overcome. A crippling number of the nation’s small businesses will simply go under in the absence of immediate, creative and broad intervention.

To meet the current need, the SBA must accept the help of private partners in delivering emergency funding. Small businesses are the core of the American economy. If actions are not taken immediately, the crushing losses in just the past few weeks will take years to remedy.

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