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Coronavirus program to rescue small businesses beset with delays

WASHINGTON – When Congress passed a $349 billion loan program for small businesses as part of a sweeping economic response to the coronavirus crisis, it was mom-and-pop enterprises like the nail salon Thu Nguyen’s family had to temporarily close in Houston that lawmakers had in mind.

But what Thu found as she tried Friday to apply for a government-backed loan of up to $80,000 under the Paycheck Protection Program Congress created was muddling: multiple banks using different forms with no clear answers.

“Our family’s super stressed and it is confusing because every (bank) website is different. So we’re having to keep track of who’s serving their own clients only and who is serving non-clients as well,” she told USA TODAY. “It’s like the banks don’t even know what they’re doing.”

Thu’s frustration was shared with multiple lenders on the first day of the program’s rolloutwho criticized what they described as the Trump administration’s ham-handed kickoff of a program considered vital to any hopes of a quick recovery. The economic collapse from the COVID-19 pandemic that’s shuttered most retail stores and prompted a stunning 10 million workers to seek unemployment benefits over the past two weeks.

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