Credit unions overcome PPP ‘nightmare’

Portal crashes. Controversies. Confusion. Despite a shaky start, the Paycheck Protection Program is providing badly needed capital to more than 4.3 million small businesses nationwide.

When COVID-19 shut down commerce across the United States, local businesses in and around Millbury, MA, were counting on Millbury Federal Credit Union ($372.4M, Millbury, MA) to help them apply for forgivable loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program. But the credit union had a big problem. It couldn’t get into the SBA loan portal.

Millbury had lost online access due to inactivity. Calls and emails to the SBA went unanswered for a week. The local congressman, Rep. Jim McGovern, even intervened to get through to the overwhelmed SBA office in Washington.

Millbury finally received an email with a temporary PIN for the portal late Saturday night. But by the time the credit union saw the email, the PIN had already expired. Finally, after 10 agonizing days, the credit union gained access and began submitting applications — three days before the first round of $342 billion in PPP funding ran out on April 16.

“It was a nightmare,” says Joe Barbato, CEO of the credit union. “When we finally got through to our regional SBA guy, he told us he had 6,000 emails he had to return that morning. They were just completely unprepared for this.”


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