Treasury and the U.S. Small Business Administration said Tuesday they will no longer accept Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan applications prepared by robotic process automation (RPA) systems.
RPA software can perform data entry with greater speed and accuracy than humans. Some banks have been using RPA to enter PPP loans applications into the SBA’s E-Tran electronic loan system. In a PPP lending operations update issued Tuesday, Treasury and the SBA said the use of RPA burdens the E-Tran system and reduces its capabilities.
The update came the day after the application window opened for $310 billion in additional PPP funding approved last week. The E-Tran system crashed within minutes of the restart after being overwhelmed by a flood of applications, including many that didn’t get processed during the $349 billion PPP first round, which ran out of funds on April 16 after less than two weeks.
“Without RPAs, the loan processing system will be more reliable, accessible, and equitable for all small businesses,” according to the update. Lenders will still be permitted to use application programming interfaces (APIs) for loan submissions.
The COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 50,000 Americans and stalled much of the U.S. economy, leading to 26 million new unemployment claims in five weeks and leaving innumerable small businesses seeking ways to survive until shelter-in-place restrictions can be lifted and economic activity resumed. Congress authorized the PPP to provide forgivable loans of up to $10 million to help businesses keep workers on the payroll and cover certain other expenses.
PPP loans are available to small businesses that were in operation on Feb. 15 with 500 or fewer employees, including not-for-profits, veterans’ organizations, tribal concerns, self-employed individuals, sole proprietorships, and independent contractors. Businesses with more than 500 employees in certain industries also can apply for loans, according to the SBA and Treasury.
The AICPA’s Paycheck Protection Program Resources page houses resources and tools produced by the AICPA to help address the economic impact of the coronavirus.
For more news and reporting on the coronavirus and how CPAs can handle challenges related to the pandemic, visit the JofA’s coronavirus resources page.
— Jeff Drew (Jeff.Drew@aicpa-cima.com) is a JofA senior editor.