SBA to put its disaster loan processing online

Herb Mitchell said he expects the new system to speed up loan processing by about 25 percent.

David S.Spence

Small Business Administration officials hope a new disaster credit management system will help loan processors think outside the shipping box.

SBA last month hired SRA International Inc. of Fairfax, Va., to develop an online loan processing system that will use the Web and eliminate transporting boxes full of files to and from disaster areas.

'This would give us virtual loan processing no matter where the disaster occurs,' said Herb Mitchell, SBA's associate administrator for disaster assistance. 'No longer would we have to travel to sites to assist processing, and this will save us money and time.'

SBA's current mainframe system involves disparate applications for loan tracking, loan closing and loan origination.

Loan officers also must transfer data to SBA's accounting system and a Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster system.

At a disaster site, loan processors do much of their work with pen and paper and then must re-enter the data when they return to the office, Mitchell said.

The new disaster credit management system will integrate the entire process on the Web and share information with the other systems more easily, Mitchell said.

He also said it will save money because SBA will not have to send as many people to a disaster site if much of the processing work can be done online.

Mitchell said he expects the new system to speed up loan processing by about 25 percent. It currently takes SBA seven to 21 days to process disaster loans.

SRA will implement the system by June 2004, he said. The 18-month contract, awarded through the General Services Administration's Millennia Lite governmentwide acquisition contract, could be worth $9.8 million for SRA.

Evaluating software

SRA will evaluate commercial software and recommend which products SBA should use, said Len Morris, SRA's program manager for the disaster credit management project.

Morris said SRA will look at software from a number of companies, including E-Credit.com Inc. of Dedham, Mass.; Gallagher Financial Systems Inc. of Coral Gables, Fla.; and Supersolutions Corp. of Eden Prairie, Minn.

'First, we will assess the software to see how it matches up with SBA's requirements, and then we will go through a scripted analysis, looking at how it deals with SBA's business processes and workflow,' Morris said. 'It is a qualitative and quantitative analysis.'

Morris said the evaluation will take about four months.

'Once SBA selects the product or products, we will bring the software into a test development and training environment,' Morris said. 'We will develop interfaces with external systems and work through a series of conference room pilots where we configure the software and make sure it satisfies all the requirements.'

SRA has conducted similar projects for the Environmental Protection Agency and National Institutes of Health.

Morris said SRA also will look at other technologies, including ways to connect loan officers at a disaster site through a wireless network and transmit data through the Iridium satellite network, owned by Iridium Satellite LLC of Arlington, Va.

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