This testimony discusses our work on reforms made to the Small Business Administration's (SBA) Disaster Loan Program and the impact those reforms had following recent disasters. SBA plays a critical role in assisting the victims of natural and other declared disasters. SBA provides financial assistance through its Disaster Loan Program to help homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes, and nonprofits recover from disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and terrorist attacks. Since the agency's inception in 1953, SBA has approved more than $46 billion in disaster loans for homeowners, businesses, and nonprofit organizations. After the 2005 Gulf Coast hurricanes (Katrina, Rita, and Wilma), SBA faced an unprecedented demand for disaster loans, while also being confronted with a significant backlog of applications; therefore, hundreds of thousands of loans were not disbursed in a timely way. Many criticized SBA for what was perceived to be a slow and confusing response to the disasters and one that exposed many deficiencies in the agency's Disaster Loan Program and demonstrated the need for reform. For example, as we stated in our February 2007 report, SBA did not engage in or complete comprehensive disaster plans before the Gulf Coast hurricanes, and this limited logistical disaster planning likely contributed to the initial challenges the agency faced in responding to the 2005 hurricanes. As a result, Congress and SBA agreed that the program needed significant improvements. Since then, SBA has taken several steps to reform its Disaster Loan Program which include creating an online loan application, increasing the capacity of its Disaster Credit Management System (DCMS), and developing a Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP). In June 2008, Congress enacted the Small Business Disaster Response and Loan Improvements Act (Act) to expand steps taken by SBA and require new measures to ensure that SBA is prepared for future catastrophic disasters.
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