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Four class-action lawsuits have been filed in California federal court on behalf of small business owners who are feeling hopeless and terrified after four major banks rejected their Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan applications.

Congress passed the CARES Act in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which allocated $349 billion in emergency funds for the small business loan program known as the Paycheck Protection Program. The program, which launched on April 3, was intended to provide loans of up to two-and-a-half times a business owner’s monthly payroll.

The loan program ran out of funds on April 16, leaving most of the small business applicants empty handed.

The lawsuits claim the nation’s four largest lenders involved in the paycheck protection program, JPMorgan, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and US Bank, rigged the loan process to benefit their bottom line.

According to the complaints, instead of a “first-come, first-served basis,” the banks processed the biggest loan amounts first, because it increased the banks’ origination fees while leaving more than 90% of the small businesses owners who applied for loans out of luck once the funds depleted. An origination fee is the compensation a lender receives for processing a new application.

To make matters worse, the banks allegedly concealed from the public that they were reshuffling the PPP applications received and prioritizing the applications that would make the banks the most money.

The lawsuits allege that as a result of their deceptive lending prioritization practices, giving preference to larger “small businesses” over true small businesses, banks received nearly $6 billion in fees while hundreds of thousands of loan applicants got nothing.

The four banks have either denied the allegations, or failed to respond to media requests for a response.

A similar action is pending against Bank of America in Baltimore, for allegedly giving its lending clients a higher priority and denying or limiting access to the Paycheck Protection Program to its depository clients and other small firms. The law firm noted that the bank updated its policy on April 4 by letting depository-only customers apply for PPP loans after the filing of a class action compliant.

However, the law firm said the bank added another requirement: Depository-only clients couldn’t have a credit card or loan with another bank.

The Baltimore firm claims that “Nothing in the CARES Act authorizes or permits defendants to pick and choose who would gain access to or benefit from the federally backed lending program,

Senators Marco Rubio (R.-Fla.) and Ben Cardin (D.-Md.) have already chastised BOA for imposing criteria not found in the law and selectively choosing who can apply.