Spanberger Presses SBA to Improve Customer Service for Virginia Business Owners, Provide Overdue Updates to EIDL Applicants

This Push Follows a September 2021 Letter in which the Congresswoman Called on the SBA to Provide Information in Response to Reports of Delays from Small Business Owners Seeking COVID-19 Disaster Loans

HENRICO, V.A. — U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger today is calling on the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to improve the Economic Injury and Disaster Loan (EIDL) application process and customer service resources available to Virginia small businesses.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the EIDL program has been used by Virginia businesses to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, or other operating expenses that they are unable to meet. Last year, Spanberger called on the SBA to provide answers about its lack of customer service resources for small business owners and additional information about ongoing delays in EIDL payment processing. In December 2021, President Joe Biden signed an Executive Order requiring the SBA to establish baseline user experience measures and deliver a streamlined online disaster loan application process — but Spanberger continues to hear from Virginia small business owners who are unable to get updates regarding their application status.

In a second letter sent to SBA Administrator Isabella Guzman, Spanberger voiced the continued concerns of business owners in the Seventh District who have not received an update on their application or have still not received funds for SBA-approved loans. Additionally, she pressed the SBA on continued delays in EIDL processing, requested updates on how they are working to meet the new user experience and customer service requirements set by President Biden, and asked how the SBA intends to better solicit feedback from American small business owners who previously went through the disaster loan process.

“Unfortunately, my office continues to receive complaints from small business owners in my district experiencing frustrations with the SBA. Constituents who applied for EIDL increases have either not received an update regarding their application or have not received funds in their bank account for loans the SBA approved. For example, my office was recently contacted by a small business owner who was approved for an EIDL increase in October 2021 and still has not received the funds,” said Spanberger in her letter. “While we appreciate the steps SBA has taken to improve customer service, hardworking small business owners across Central Virginia deserve better from their government.”

Spanberger continued, “For small business owners in my district, inconsistent or unhelpful customer service means waiting months for their approved loans, receiving conflicting information, and awaiting updates on the status of their loans. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, these loans can mean the difference between staying in business or closing their doors for good.”

Click here to read the letter, and the full letter text is below.

Dear Administrator Guzman:

Thank you for the letter our office received on January 11, 2022, in response to my September 3, 2021, letter. I was pleased to learn that the SBA has engaged in several efforts to improve small business owners’ experience with the SBA, including efforts to prioritize personnel for COVID-19 Economic Injury and Disaster Loans (EIDL) and expedite the processing of loan increase applications.

Unfortunately, my office continues to receive complaints from small business owners in my district experiencing frustrations with the SBA. Constituents who applied for EIDL increases have either not received an update regarding their application or have not received funds in their bank account for loans the SBA approved. For example, my office was recently contacted by a small business owner who was approved for an EIDL increase in October 2021 and still has not received the funds.

While we appreciate the steps SBA has taken to improve customer service, hardworking small business owners across Central Virginia deserve better from their government. On December 13, 2021, President Biden signed Executive Order 14058: Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government.  The Executive Order requires the SBA to 1) establish baseline experience measures for key small business application processes in areas such as loans, grants, and certifications and 2) design and deliver a streamlined online disaster assistance application experience.

I support the Administration’s efforts to improve the delivery of Government services and to put people first. Furthermore, I agree with the President that we must hold the federal government accountable for “delivering services with a focus on the actual experience of the people whom it is meant to serve.”

As such, I would like responses to each of the inquiries below:

  1. Please provide an update on SBA’s progress in responding to the two requirements set forth by Executive Order 14058.
  1. In September 2021, the Office of Management and Budget updated their Circular A-11 guidance to expand the definition of customer experience and improve recommendations for agencies.   As you determine baseline experience measures for small business loan applications, are you incorporating this newly updated guidance in OMB Circular No. A-11 (2021)?  For reference, this guidance states that customer feedback surveys must include an overall trust score, an overall score of the transaction, and a series of questions relating to the following customer service drivers:
  1. Service Effectiveness / Perception of Value
  2. Ease / Simplicity
  3. Efficiency / Speed
  4. Equity / Transparency
  5. Employee Interaction / Warmth /Helpfulness / Competence
  1. As you design a streamlined online disaster assistance application experience, are you soliciting feedback from small business owners across the country who previously went through the SBA disaster loan process?

For small business owners in my district, inconsistent or unhelpful customer service means waiting months for their approved loans, receiving conflicting information, and awaiting updates on the status of their loans. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, these loans can mean the difference between staying in business or closing their doors for good. Empowering small business owners to provide valuable feedback to the SBA is vital to improving customer service, delivering services more efficiently and effectively, and engaging business owners in the government services that impact them.

Thank you again for your attention to this important issue. Small businesses have borne the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic – and are now having to contend with challenges from the Omicron variant. Ensuring they receive the funds they are approved for and receive the assistance they need is absolutely vital.

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