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The U.S. Small Business Administration says it is opening an online portal next week where Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) borrowers can directly apply to the SBA for forgiveness of loans up to $150,000 without going through their bank.

The move is intended to speed up the loan forgiveness process for the 6.5 million businesses that took out loans in 2021 to get through the COVID-19 pandemic. Lenders are required to opt into this portal program and more than 600 banks have done so thus far.

SBA Administrator Isabel Casillas Guzman said in a statement Wednesday that $275 billion in PPP loans were made in 2021 and the vast majority were for $150,000 or less. The average loan size was $42,000.

“These entrepreneurs are busy running their businesses and are challenged by an overly complicated forgiveness process,” Guzman said. “We need to deliver forgiveness more efficiently so they can get back to enlivening our Main Streets, sustaining our neighborhoods and fueling our nation’s economy.”

The online portal will begin accepting forgiveness applications from borrowers on Aug. 4. In addition to the technology platform, the SBA is standing up a PPP customer service team to answer questions and directly assist borrowers with their forgiveness applications. Borrowers who need assistance or have questions should call (877) 552-2692, Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. EST.

To access the online portal, go to https://directforgiveness.sba.gov.

Established by the CARES Act in 2020, the PPP was among the first COVID-19 economic aid programs and has provided more than $798 billion in economic relief to small businesses and nonprofits across the nation since the pandemic began. Applications for the last iteration of the PPP ended May 31 after the program was extended by the American Rescue Plan Act in March.