There is no doubt local healthcare officials played, and continue to play, a critical role in our efforts to stem the negative impacts of this pandemic. It is difficult to put into words the sacrifices they made to keep us well-equipped to face the health risks of the last 18 months. Today, I want to focus on a group of individuals who made similar sacrifices for the nation’s financial well-being.
Bankers faced the challenges of an economy severely impacted by stay-at-home orders and played a vital role in making the recession that followed the shortest recession in history (two months). Bankers took calls from nearly bankrupt customers and worked with them to find solutions. Bankers created arrangements with financially strapped homeowners that successfully kept them in their homes.
Through the Small Business Administration (SBA), bankers also funded loans which likely saved millions of jobs nationwide. This program, called the Paycheck Protection Program, offered forgivable loans to small businesses in return for their assurance to use most of their funds to pay their employees. These loans were initially funded by banks, who then received payment from the SBA.
When the forgiveness portal opened, banks assisted each participant through the application process.
Employers in Greene County, with a total of nearly 3,000 employees, received Paycheck Protection Program funding. There is not enough data to determine how many of those employees risked unemployment, but anecdotal evidence suggests employers were considering sizable reductions and sole proprietors were desperately trying to make ends meet to keep their storefronts open.
Bankers sacrificed countless time and energy to get these loans serviced for their customers. They answered calls through the weekends, filed documents in the middle of the night and navigated ever-changing government guidance. When political forces tried to change the rules midstream, bankers and their advocacy groups stood up, keeping important tax benefits available to their small business customers, and making the forgiveness process less cumbersome.
A special thank you to my staff at Farmers and Mechanics who navigated all the challenges this program brought to impact 500 of those 3,000 employees. Your tireless efforts made a difference in lives and livelihoods of individuals throughout our local community.
Joshua Riggins is the president of Farmers & Mechanics Federal Bank in Bloomfield, and is committed to providing customers with a reliable and competent banking experience.