Who could have possibly guessed three weeks ago that we’d be in the situation we are today relative to the Covid-19 virus and its dramatic effects to the global health of humanity and the economy. To say these are unprecedented times (at least during my lifetime) would be a tremendous understatement.
The last few days have been quite a whirlwind with the rollout of the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) on Friday, April 3rd. Much has been written and discussed about the rollout. And not much of it good. It was an unmitigated disaster. Most of your lenders lived it.
What was good is that I got to witness firsthand the tenacity and perseverance of community bankers as they kept their heads up, battled through the challenges, and didn’t panic - all in the interests of assisting the small businesses in their beloved communities. In some cases, this PPP lifeline is more about saving these businesses – not just assisting.
I think I fielded about 40 calls (and more emails) Friday from members having myriad problems with the PPP application system. Many of those issues persisted through the weekend. The system clearly wasn’t ready to go live. But in all fairness, the infrastructure of the Treasury and SBA certainly couldn’t have predicted such a development either. The good news – none of our members threw in the towel. They worked through it and continue to work through it.
It’s been an incredibly frustrating process however, but I want you to know that ICBND and the great folks at ICBA continue our advocacy to make sure community banks get a fair shake. We’ve implored policymakers to address the following issues: Support and enhance the overburdened SBA systems.
Increase program funds beyond the $349 billion appropriated. Certainly it couldn’t have been the legislative intent to pick winners and losers based on who could access the system. Allocate an appropriate share of existing and future program funds to community banks. Launch a secondary market facility with the Federal Reserve to provide liquidity protection of originating banks.
Hang in there, be safe, and be proud of what you do!