Neighborhood business owners, many of whom did the right thing by closing their doors to help stop the spread of the virus, have had to white-knuckle it for weeks. Some of the 1.7 million applicants approved for PPP loans describe bureaucratic runarounds. Those like Robyn Shultz sweat it out, waiting for the Treasury Department to calm the confusion and for Congress’s additional resources to arrive.

“It just seems like the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing,” Shultz said. “I don’t know where to turn for guidance.”

Small businesses are an anchor of the American economy. They provide almost half the country’s jobs, about 45% of national production and almost all the employment growth. So it was disappointing for Alex Steed, who co-owns a video-production company in Portland, Maine, when he couldn’t get through to the SBA help line after applying for a loan.

“I was told I was caller number 1,403, and it would be around a three-hour wait,” said Steed. “I stayed on the line for several hours before it went dead. I never ended up connecting with anyone.”