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Trump’s small businesses lending program is a failure to launch



One day after the launch of a $350 billion loan program designed to rescue millions of small businesses pummeled by the coronavirus pandemic, technical glitches continued to cripple the ability of the nation’s top lenders to begin processing the loans, throwing into doubt when any of the applicants will start receiving any money.

The lending program, which forms part of the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, is a much-needed lifeline for the 30 million small businesses across the country. It offers loans of up to $2 million to companies who employ fewer than 500 people. Those loans are forgiven for eight weeks, as long as the businesses meet certain conditions, such as using the majority of the loan to continue paying worker salaries. Payments are deferred for six months after that.

However, two of the nation’s biggest banks say they have only just been able to start processing loans.

“We are all waiting on the Small Business Administration,” a Chase senior executive told NBC News.

Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase received tens of thousands of applicants within hours of the program’s launch on Friday, senior executives at both companies told NBC News. Bank of America reported receiving over $22 billion in requested funds. Wells Fargo, which appeared to have a late start, on Saturday opened a portal where customers could register and get an email back “with next steps within in a few days.” Citi’s website said “applications will be available shortly.”

To begin the lending process, small businesses must submit their application via an online portal on their bank’s website. A banker then conducts a phone call with the applicant.

However, there’s no way in the hastily fashioned system for the banks’ computers and those of the Small Business Administration, which administers the Paycheck Protection Program loans, to talk to one another. Bankers have resorted to entering applicant information by hand into E-Tran, the proprietary system used by the SBA to guarantee loans and generate loan numbers.

With banks reporting tens of thousands of applications just in the first day, the system is already overwhelmed. The SBA usually processes about 60,000 loans in an entire year.

Despite this, President Donald Trump said in a news briefing Saturday that, “in 24 hours, the SBA processed over 28,000 loans.”

“Remember, we had the greatest economy,” Trump said. “Now we have to open our country.”

Senior banking executives at Bank of America and Chase told NBC News they were still waiting on loan numbers to come back from the SBA, and so far had not processed any more than a trickle from the flood of applicants.

Bankers said they were working systems to automate and speed up the process but had no idea when these customers would start to see money in their accounts.

An email from the Small Business Administration to lenders Saturday morning apologized for “ongoing technical issues,” which included slowness and the inability of “many” lenders to create new logins or reset passwords.

The SBA did not immediately respond to an NBC News request for comment.

Some community banks, locally owned retail banks with less than $1 billion in assets, reported being able to make loans. Connect One Bank of New Jersey told CNBC Friday that they had processed a loan and deposited it into a customer’s account.

@BankofAmerica & community banks are rocking!” Trump tweeted late Saturday morning, adding that he would take additional steps if necessary to shore up the program.

“I will immediately ask Congress for more money to support small businesses under the #PPPloan if the allocated money runs out. So far, way ahead of schedule. @BankofAmerica & community banks are rocking!”

Since the program is first come, first served, small businesses who applied at lenders who were having trouble with the hastily fashioned relief program run the risk of missing out.

Small businesses, which employ almost half the private workforce, don’t have the cash runways of big companies such as Amazon or Starbucks to help them weather a crisis of this magnitude. In a recent study, half the small businesses surveyed had two weeks or less of cash liquidity.

“After the financial crisis, we lost 1.8 million small business owners,” Karen Harned, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business, told NBC News. “After the reaction I’m hearing, I’m worried about what that number might be after this is over.”

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Rep. Conor Lamb dismisses Trump’s attacks as ‘the latest effort to distract’



WASHINGTON — Rep. Conor Lamb on Wednesday dismissed President Donald Trump’s attacks on him as just the latest effort by the president to distract from issues affecting the country.

In an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” the Pennsylvania Democrat was asked to state for the record whether he voted for Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to be House speaker, which the president falsely claimed on Monday.

“No, I voted for my good friend Joe Kennedy,” Lamb said. “But that isn’t what this is about.”

“I think that’s the latest effort to distract from what the real issues are in parts of country like mine,” Lamb said.

Noting that Trump had called Lamb an American fraud, co-host Willie Geist pointed out that the congressman attended the Marine Corps’ Officer Candidate School after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

Asked why he decided to pursue that path, Lamb said, “You know, we were a country at war at the time — still are, obviously — and I had a lot of friends that served. So I thought I could do my part and, you know, joining the Marines. It seemed like the toughest test and the chance to serve with the best. So, yeah, really fortunate to have gotten to serve with those guys and, you know, the Marines know what service is, and it’s not about attention or recognition — although I did serve under this commander-in-chief as a reservist, and I’m proud of that service, too.”

Lamb’s comments come after Trump falsely claimed on Twitter that Lamb voted to elect Pelosi as House speaker while endorsing his GOP opponent.

“Sean Parnell is an American Hero. Conor Lamb has proven to be an American fraud, and a puppet for Crazy Nancy Pelosi,” Trump tweeted. “He said he would NOT vote for her for Speaker, and did. Will kill 2A. Voted to impeach (on nothing). A TOTAL & COMPLETE Sean Parnell Endorsement!”

The tweet was nearly identical to one Trump posted Monday, but correctly spelled Lamb’s surname.

Lamb, who was first elected to Congress in a 2018 special election, did not vote to elect Pelosi as speaker in the formal floor vote held in January 2019. Instead, he kept a campaign promise and was among more than a dozen Democratic defectors to oppose Pelosi’s bid, voting instead to elect his Democratic colleague, Rep. Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts, as speaker, although Kennedy was not running for the leadership role.

Lamb ran for Congress on a pledge to support new leadership in the House and won in an upset in a district long-held by Republicans.

When Trump attacked Lamb on Monday, the congressman tweeted a screenshot of the president’s comments and wrote, “These people have been lying about my record since the day I became a candidate. It hasn’t stopped, and it won’t stop, until we beat them at the ballot box in November.”

In his tweet Tuesday, Trump called Parnell, a military veteran who was wounded in Afghanistan in 2006, “an American Hero.” In his endorsement, Trump retweeted of a post from Parnell in which he said after he was wounded, “I was medically retired from the Army in 2010 & left the military with next to nothing. I was in rough shape. 10 yrs later the President of the United States is giving me shoutouts. Democrat or Republican this is damn cool! God Bless America!”

Lamb is a military veteran. He served as a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps, completing active duty service in 2013. He continued to serve in the Marine Corps Reserve and was eventually promoted to major.

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Trump heads to Florida for historic liftoff



WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is expected to travel to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida Wednesday afternoon to attend the launch of the first Americans into space in nearly a decade.

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will travel on the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket owned by tech billionaire Elon Musk. Wednesday will be the first time NASA sends astronauts into orbit aboard a spacecraft built by a private company.

Trump is also expected to tour the Kennedy Space Center and give a speech after the launch.

The launch is scheduled to take place at 4:33 p.m. Wednesday, but weather forecasts for Cape Canaveral, Florida, showed potential storms could interfere with the liftoff. The launch is “instantaneous,” meaning that it needs to leave precisely at 4:33 p.m. or else the craft risks missing the International Space Station due to the Earth’s rotation.

Vice President Mike Pence and first lady Melania Trump are also planning to attend the launch and thousands of people are expected to watch.

Charles Bolden, a former NASA administrator and astronaut, said in an interview with MSNBC Wednesday morning that he did not think the coronavirus pandemic would affect the ability to successfully launch the rocket, but that he worried it could be putting some workers involved with the event at risk of infection.

“I’m concerned about the safety of the people involved, but I am not concerned that it will impact the launch,” Bolden, said.

Trump’s visit Wednesday will be his fourth trip to a battleground state in as many weeks. Trump, who has been eager to get back on the campaign trail, has visited factories producing medical equipment used to fight the coronavirus in Arizona, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

Trump, who changed his residency from New York to Florida last year, narrowly won the state in 2016 by roughly 1 percentage point. Florida has 29 electoral college votes, more than any other battleground state, and will be critical to the president’s re-election chances.

The RealClear Politics polling average shows former Vice President Joe Biden, the apparent Democratic presidential nominee, leading Trump in Florida by more than 3 percentage points.

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‘Pathetic’ Ian Blackford faces backlash after thanking Barnier for his letter -‘We’re OUT'



IAN BLACKFORD has faced a major backlash on social media after the ardent Remainer endorsed Michel Barnier’s offer for an extension to the post-Brexit transition period.

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