NEW YORK – Thousands of small business owners reeling from the aggressive measures taken to stop the spread of the coronavirus may have had their personal information exposed last month on a government website that handles disaster loan applications.
The Small Business Administration said Tuesday that the personal information of more than 7,000 business owners applying for economic disaster loans had potentially been seen by other applicants on the SBA’s website on March 25.
The SBA said only the Disaster Loans Program was affected, not the Paycheck Protection Program, which only started on April 3 and is managed by a separate system.
SBA spokeswoman Carol Wilkerson said the agency notified the 7,913 homeowners whose information may have been disclosed and offered them a year of free credit monitoring. The agency immediately disabled the affected part of its system, Wilkerson said.
In a letter to the affected owners obtained by The Associated Press, the SBA said there was no evidence that the data exposed was misused. The information included names, social security numbers, dates of birth, financial information, email addresses and phone numbers.
Business owners have had problems with the disaster loan website in the past. The site was closed for maintenance for several hours on March 16, and owners were unable to apply during that time. On March 29, the SBA revised its disaster loan application process and homeowners had to reapply. Many learned days or weeks later that they had to reapply.
“It’s frustrating to have to deal with this now too,” said Adam Rammel, co-owner of Brewfontaine, a restaurant in Bellefontaine, Ohio. He received his disaster loan money on Tuesday after a month of waiting and also received a paycheck protection loan.
“I got money from them, but they didn’t have the best start,” he said of the SBA.
The SBA also said it processed more than 755,000 disaster loan advances, $ 10,000 each and totaling nearly $ 3.3 billion on Monday. The advances are essentially grants. The agency also said it processed nearly 27,000 disaster loans totaling nearly $ 5.6 billion.
Business owners apply for disaster loans directly from the SBA website, www.sba.gov, unlike paycheck protection loans which are researched from banks and then approved by the SBA.
The Senate passed and sent to the House on Tuesday a bill that would add $ 300 billion to the paycheck protection program, which reached its original credit of $ 349 billion last week after the SBA approved more a million loans. Thousands of business owners have applications pending to be sent to the SBA for approval, or are waiting to apply.
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