Fed May Ease Lending Curb on Wells Fargo to Help Small Businesses

The small-business program was opened on Friday, but some banks began talking to their customers earlier in the week about how to apply for loans. Anecdotal evidence suggests that successful applicants are vastly outnumbered by frustrated borrowers, and even those who were notified that their loans had been approved say they do not expect to receive money before the end of the week.

Part of the problem is that many banks, including Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Wells Fargo, say they can handle making loans only to existing customers whose financial and personal information they already have on file. Banks have also set restrictions on which customers can and can’t apply for loans — for instance, at Bank of America, customers who have just accounts and not loans are ineligible.

Even existing customers are struggling to put in their loan requests.

“Citi has this line on their website that says ‘Citi is on your side when you need us most,’ and that irritates me the most,” said Andrew Levine, the chairman of Development Counsellors International, a 60-person business that helps cities, states and countries market themselves to tourists and corporations. Mr. Levine’s father started the business in 1960 and now its future is uncertain. “We are in the travel industry and the industry has just been decimated,” he said.

The company’s 40-year relationship with Citi, where it has lines of credit and bank accounts, doesn’t seem to count for much, he said. The banker Mr. Levine normally deals with has no answers. “He just doesn’t know what’s going on,” he said.

A Citi spokesman said the web portal would be up shortly.

At Wells Fargo, customers are not sure whether the loan requests they have made are still being considered. Late on Sunday, as business owners around the country continued to report trouble applying for loans, Wells Fargo announced it had reached its loan limit.

Charles W. Scharf, the bank’s chief executive, said that it would consider loan applications submitted through Sunday and that executives would also try to find ways to shrink its balance sheet and make more room for loans.

“We are committed to helping our customers during these unprecedented and challenging times, but are restricted in our ability to serve as many customers as we would like under the P.P.P.,” Mr. Scharf said in a statement.

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