On Friday, we reported that millions of small business owners around the country were stunned to learn that they weren't eligible for loans via the government's "Paycheck Protection Program", or would at least face more roadblocks, and more critical delays, as landlords demand rent and vendors demand payment.
Last week, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and SBA Secretary Jovita Carranza scrambled to publicly assure investors that rumors of a "power struggle" between the Treasury and SBA were false, and that the big banks were finally beginning to process loan applications. He even enthusiastically tweeted out aggregate totals for approved loans. But amazingly, as more businesses owners went about applying for loans only to learn they weren't eligible or would need to try again at a different bank, finally, BofA's BriMo had to appear on CNBC to explain that businesses should apply for their stimulus loans via lenders with which they have "preexisting relationships".
But as the administration and the big banks scramble to save the American economy from a far more brutal collapse (which is what would happen if half of the small businesses in the country close), even more roadblocks are popping up on Monday.
In a phoned-in interview on CNBC, Wilfred Frost urgently reported that Bank of America has received 177,000 applications for some $32.6 billion in emergency liquidity, but so far, only 100 of these loans have been disbursed.
The bank hopes to get most of the stack processed by mid-week, but it's unclear what they're basing these hopes on. Also, in case you dear reader still harbored any doubts about just how devastating this has been for small businesses, which typically don't have the 'fortress' balance sheets that corporations do, nor the access to cheap capital, that $32.6BN figure represents 10% of the total Congressional allocation from the $2.2 trillion stimulus package for all the banks.
BofA described the demand as "fierce" - something that shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, but is apparently a surprise for the bankers down in Charlotte.
About a week ago, we explained the infrastructure-related difficulties that government agencies and the big banks would face in doling out the money, one reason why it might take longer than Americans would ideally like, posing an existential threat to potentially hundreds of thousands of businesses.
Importantly, BofA was the first major lender to set up and launch its portal for the program.
And BofA isn't the only big bank having trouble: CNBC reported last night that Wells Fargo will only be able to do $10 billion of the PPP loans due to the Fed asset cap that the central bank imposed on WFC back in January 2018. Because of this, Wells will focus on companies with fewer than 50 employees, as well as nonprofits. The bank also said it would donate "all fees related to program to nonprofits focused on small businesses," Frost reported.
$WFC announces will only be able to do $10bn of PPP loans due to Fed asset cap. So will focus on companies less than 50 employees, and nonprofits. ALSO - will donate all fees related to program to nonprofits focused on small businesses.— Wilfred Frost (@WilfredFrost) April 6, 2020
How did regulators and Congress not anticipate this, and ask the Fed to suspend the asset cap that has prevented the bank from growing its assets, essentially stopping it from growing? Imagine being a small business or other business whose 'regular bank' is Wells Fargo, only to learn that they can't give you a loan because the Fed won't allow it?
Howard Schultz said on CNBC Monday morning that small businesses are facing a period of "carnage and fear." We doubt this will help offer any peace of mind.
That certainly doesn't inspire confidence in banks' ability to 'execute' here. They've already demanded their extra 50bp in 'tribute'. Does the administration need to dangle another 'incentive' in their faces?