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Online disaster-relief loan applications halted amid security worries

The SBA's online portal for businesses to apply

The SBA's online portal for businesses to apply for disaster aid loans  has been disabled.  Credit: SBA

The personal information of some business owners was exposed when they applied for federal disaster loans because of an unsecure online portal for completing and submitting application forms, a source familiar with the situation said Thursday.

The U.S. Small Business Administration disabled the portal’s online application function on Wednesday and posted a notice saying it was “temporarily unavailable.” Agency officials did not respond Wednesday to Newsday’s questions about the reasons for the outage.

The personal information that was exposed includes names, addresses, birthdates and Social Security numbers, according to the source, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. The glitch was first reported by NBC News, which said it learned of the problem from a loan applicant.

The number of affected business owners wasn't available on Thursday. An SBA spokeswoman in Washington didn't respond to Newsday's request for comment.

With the online function suspended, SBA advised business owners to download PDFs of the application forms at disasterloan.sba.gov/apply-for-disaster-loan/index.html. Upon completion, the forms may be uploaded to the SBA via the BOX widget on the website.

Applicants also can email their completed applications to disasterloans@sba.gov, fax them to 202-481-1505 or send them via postal mail to U.S. Small Business Administration Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Rd., Fort Worth, Texas, 76155.

Steve Bulger, administrator of SBA's Region II, which includes New York State, said Thursday, "SBA's focus right now is leveraging all of its resources to process the Economic Injury Disaster Loan applications for small businesses and nonprofit organizations as quickly as possible."

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Some early applicants have received their money, though details were not available from SBA. The agency has experienced a surge in applications from Long Island, according to Bulger.

The disaster loans are for up to $2 million per applicant that can be repaid over a maximum of 30 years.

To be eligible, a business must have 500 or fewer employees and be unable to secure other financing to keep operating. The interest rate is 3.75%

Loans are also available to private nonprofits with an interest rate of 2.75%

More information is available by calling 800-659-2955. The application deadline is Dec. 21.

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