By Morgan Eichensehr
April 15, 2020
When the U.S. Small Business Administration needed new tools to help it efficiently disburse emergency relief funds made available during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it turned to trusted tech partners, including a Baltimore software firm.
Baltimore-based Fearless has done contract work for the SBA for several years, building software tools and programs for SBA.gov. Amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, the company was called on to assist the administration with the roll out of several emergency funding programs, including the $349 billion in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which provides fast cash to small businesses impacted by the pandemic to help with payroll and other expenses. As the new funds became available, the SBA was quickly overrun with demand from banks and lenders nationwide seeking access to the funds. The influx of traffic led to website crashes and login issues.
Delali Dzirasa, founder and CEO of Fearless, said the SBA reached out to ask his company to help build a new web application that could make things run more smoothly.
Dzirasa explained that many of the nation’s larger banks had existing relationships with the SBA and were already set up to use tools like E-Tran, a processing service that allows lenders to quickly submit and receive loan guaranty requests electronically. But over the last several weeks, numerous smaller banks and lenders have sought access to the SBA’s systems so they can deliver the newly available loan funds to small business clients in need. Fearless was contracted to help build a new web application to help those institutions, Dzirasa said.
The new Lender Gateway portal was launched last week in partnership with Amazon Web Services. The tool enables lenders to efficiently create new accounts with the SBA and begin submitting loan authorization requests through the E-Tran system.
Dzirasa admitted there were some added challenges working on this project, given that Fearless’ 114-employee team is dispersed and working remotely, as opposed to working alongside each other in the company’s downtown offices inside the Spark Baltimore coworking operation. Still, Fearless was able to get the portal built and “out the door” in under 10 days, he said.
Thanks to the Lender Gateway application, the SBA is supporting 20 times its average previous traffic, up to 100 times at peak use. Representatives with the SBA did not immediately respond to inquiries about how many institutions have utilized the new portal so far.
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Source: Baltimore Business Journal