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April 7, 2020 · OPINION

Banks moving at lightning speed on stimulus funds

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“Business owners should contact their banks immediately,” he advises.
“Banks are now economic first responders . . . (working) in record time to help our business clients, their employees and the communities we all serve,” Atlantic Union CEO John Asbury says.
By John Asbury
Atlantic Union Bankshares President/CEO

A recent Goldman Sachs survey confirms that more than half of U.S. small business owners say their business will not be able to continue operating more than three months due to the economic strain caused by the coronavirus pandemic. At least 10 million Americans applied for jobless benefits in the last two weeks of March, overwhelming many states’ unemployment offices. 

Part of the recent $2.2-trillion stimulus package included the passage of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The PPP gives small businesses potential access to a safety net to keep their workforce employed during the COVID-19 crisis. The SBA will forgive loans if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities.

Banks are now economic first responders and are being asked to play a major role in the delivery of the relief. Many financial institutions across the country and their staff are moving heaven and earth to bring the specially-structured SBA loan to market – in record time – to help our business clients, their employees and the communities we all serve.

Considering the speed with which this relief effort has come together and the dramatic demand it is addressing, it is naturally fraught with challenges. The government approved the stimulus package on March 27 and the SBA began to move fast. Banks were given a week to prepare for and launch a 1-percent interest rate forgivable loan program that more closely resembles a grant. Many of the important loan details and necessary documentation were not available until late the night before the application process went live. Even with the challenges, the banks and the SBA are working together to make this as seamless as possible for small business owners.

At Atlantic Union Bank we made the PPP our top priority across the bank last week, and at least half of our more than 2,000 employees are involved in some way implementing the program. We launched a new and complex lending product – something that typically takes months to do. We developed a new website and workflow infrastructure to accept and process applications and our Teammates are volunteering on weekends and after hours (some working well past midnight) so we can service our customers more quickly. These teammates are leading the charge with energy, enthusiasm and great pride as they help our customers and communities in such a direct way. Since Friday, we received more than 5,000 applications for $1.2 billion dollars. The applications represent companies with a combined payroll of more than 216,000 workers.

While all banks are approaching this differently, we have the same goal in mind. The more small businesses we can help, the more Americans we keep employed and the stronger the recovery we can expect once this is all over. We view this as our patriotic duty and a moral responsibility we must accept. This is not just about our business clients. It is about their employees and ensuring they can continue to earn a paycheck. It is about their families that count on them for the income that pays their mortgage, puts food on the table, and pays their utilities.

Since Friday, April 3, small businesses have been racing to apply for their fair share of the $349 billion in forgivable loans available. The financial industry is working diligently to manage the high volume of applications. And rightfully so – business owners need answers about the program, need to apply now and hope to receive their money quickly.

As the leader of a regional banking institution offering the SBA loan, I can attest to the unprecedented levels of confusion and frustrations, but our priority is to help. The most important thing a bank can do is accept applications from all of their customers, and not just their borrowers or a privileged few, refine their processes to expedite approvals and continue to have empathy for their customers. The most important thing small business owner can do right now is apply without delay.

Who is eligible?

Essentially all small business owners who have 500 or fewer employees. Businesses in certain industries may have more than 500 employees if they meet the SBA’s size standards for those industries. Check the SBA business size guidelines. Businesses in the hospitality and food industry with more than one location may be eligible if their individual locations employ less than 500 workers. Sole proprietorships, independent contractors and self-employed persons are eligible as well as 501(c)(3) non-profits to include churches.

Starting April 3, small businesses and sole proprietorships were eligible to apply for the PPP. Starting April 10, independent contractors and self-employed individuals can apply for the PPP.

How do I submit an application?

Business owners should contact their banks immediately. Contact any bank where you have a business account to inquire about the program. Not all banks are in a position to take their client’s applications and some have specific restrictions. Due to overwhelming demand, banks will understandably prioritize their own customers and few have capacity to accept applications from noncustomers. So it is critical to find out now if your bank can help or if you need to find an alternative who can. Visit www.sba.gov for a list of SBA lenders.

What critical documents must I have as part of the application process?

In order to speed up the application process, it is important to submit all the necessary documentation upfront. Otherwise, the application will be reviewed, the bank will send back a note regarding missing information and you could end up having to start the process all over again. The application documentation is straightforward and includes your tax return, annual financial statement and evidence of payroll for the last year. Specific requirements are available on the SBA’s website or your bank’s application.

What happens when the money runs out?

Like other banks and small businesses themselves, we also worry that the rush will lead to a gap between what businesses need and what is made available through this initial funding. The SBA will be forced to cut off funding as they reach the $349 billion allocated to the initiative.

While banks cannot guarantee that the SBA will be able to fund all applicants, there is good reason to believe the president and Congress may approve additional funding. Atlantic Union Bank is creating a queue and should the initial funding run out we will hold our clients’ applications so that we can processes the loans at a future date if additional funding is made available.

I cannot stress enough that if you are a small business, contact your bank now. This is an incredible lifeline for your company, and you should take advantage of it. The process might not go as planned and it might not go as quickly as you expect it to, but we are doing everything we can to service our customers quickly and effectively. For Atlantic Union Bank, we are helping our customers weather this storm and we do not take that responsibility lightly.

The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic is the defining moment of our generation as we simultaneously face a healthcare crisis and an economic crisis, but not a financial crisis. Unlike the Great Recession, this time around the American Banking system is a part of the solution and not the cause of the problem. Speaking for our company, we will do our part to help.

The writer has than 30 years in commercial and corporate banking. He will become chairman of the Virginia Bankers Association in June.
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badelectronics · April 28, 2020 at 6:59 am
@FairandBalanced: I was wrong. After the returns are in and seeing all the public corporations getting money, looks like you 100% right to be skeptical.
DonkeyFarmer · April 20, 2020 at 9:17 pm
Linda I was thinking the same thing.
Linda Ward · April 20, 2020 at 11:44 am
Money is all gone for SMALL Businesses but BIG business got there cut early.

Yet, people are still buying million dollar properties around here, no hurt for the wealthy, just getting wealthier by tapping into the US Treasury with the help of Mnuchin, the Goldman Sachs crook from 2009.
FairandBalanced · April 19, 2020 at 10:46 pm
I'm reading through the comments just now. OwenBenn are you for real!? Can you express a complete thought? No less write your thoughts on paper or a computer screen??? What the hell are you saying? Total gibberish! You are everything that is wrong with the United States of America right now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
FairandBalanced · April 19, 2020 at 10:34 pm
this bald headed menace who wrote this article and is pictured here is a criminal, Republican trump supporter. he should be run out of town! now hear this!!!!

*Shake Shack, Ruth's Chris and other chain restaurants got big PPP loans when small businesses couldn't*

Jim Griffin · April 19, 2020 at 11:00 am
Cutting taxes while costs climb is a bad idea. Yes, cut discretionary spend where possible -- example: especially under these circumstances, why purchase easements? -- but pay the bills and cover gaps with prudent borrowing.

Open society when properly advised. Referring to it as opening the economy implies an emphasis on money over life. Economies persist under whatever circumstances impose themselves (open or not); Decisions should favor health and choice in balance.

Example: The medical system and first responders are stretched, so business as usual makes little sense with less buffer for even ordinary risks, like car accidents or slips and falls.

Put simply, risk = probability X cost. Here cost is truly lethal, imposed across a broad population swath in a manner equal to multiple jumbo-jet crashes on a daily basis. CV19 cost is cruel, taking lives swiftly without presence of loved ones, and it is disproportionately imposed on public servants.

Probability remains too high for comfort. This risk is communal; Prudence and reliance on science is advised when imposing risk on others.

This is also a good time to re-assess choices. For both government and our personal lives, needs and wants are re-cast. It's Sunday, a good day to reflect.
FairandBalanced · April 16, 2020 at 1:12 pm
Donkey, you go first and let me know how safe it is. I will wait right here.
FairandBalanced · April 16, 2020 at 1:10 pm
(CNN)The money is gone.

On Thursday morning, the $349 billion emergency small business lending program officially tapped out. The Small Business Association officially ran out of money for the Paycheck Protection Program, according to a message for lenders posted on the administration's website.
DonkeyFarmer · April 14, 2020 at 8:42 pm
When are we going to start talking about a pay cut for all County employees? If you shut down the tax paying private sector how do you expect Public Sector employees to get paid? Where is the money coming from? Open the economy or start cutting taxes.
Jerome Fields · April 13, 2020 at 10:30 pm
How and why did Larry Kudlow's wife get a Small business loan? Isn't he and his wife millionaires?
OwenBenn · April 12, 2020 at 3:11 am
I think this is a good decision form the US government because this COVID-19 is spreading very rapidly. And because of it, Also they recommend to visit ca.bestessays.com to get quality data to complete quality task. And this is good that they gave them some money some there development.
Silii · April 11, 2020 at 6:20 pm
My guess is the banks are doing the best they can given the total screw ups with administering the loan program from the federal level where long time experts have been fired and never replaced. That aside, for you folks who have hissy fits about hating socialism and, therefore, Democrats, do not accept your $1200 check (or whatever amount you get from Trump and Republicans redistributing taxpayers money) and you small business owners - do not take a loan if it will be forgiven at some point because a loan never repaid is a free handout, socialism style. Otherwise, good luck to everyone and stay safe from the folks who aren't wearing face masks and who continue to violate social distancing and other efforts to get this mess under control because they were told, and consequently believe, it is a hoax and just another attempt to attack Trump.
badelectronics · April 10, 2020 at 10:35 am
@Fair: I do not blame you for being cynical. Just because I think the President of the United States is a moron, does not mean I suffer from TDS. Although I will not discount that I might in fact have the dreaded TDS, I believe that any person who can look at President Trump's nightly press propaganda delivery and say, "Wow, the President just mentioned his ratings while talking about 466K people with COVID-19 and over 16k deaths. He is really a great leader" probably needs to reexamine their priorities.
FairandBalanced · April 10, 2020 at 9:23 am
I think I have too much time on my hands and I definitely suffer from TDS. My bet is that no one in the Warrenton GDP area will get an SBA loan. Please someone come out and prove me wrong when you do close and you get the money and you can give me the comeuppance I deserve.
badelectronics · April 10, 2020 at 7:54 am
@Fair: In order for small business owners to get money from the government, they need to go through a approved lender. This particular lender, unsavory as they might be for you, are needed to meet an end.

This money/loan business plan was a bipartisan effort. I think that Trump is probably the stupidest President ever, (But his ratings are high!) but this plan will help out a lot of freaking people.

I don't know if you have a personal axe to grind with the author, but that is how it sounds from your writings. If his dog took a shit on your lawn or piss on your roses, I'm sorry. Put the poo in a bag and put it on his porch.

FairandBalanced · April 10, 2020 at 3:00 am
The Trump administration’s pronouncements and pledges have turned out, again and again, to be a out of sync with reality as reported by major news networks across this country. Now that trump has taken control of oversight of the stimulus package it is doomed because legit players don't trust him to do the right thing and he will dole out the money for his own political and personal gain. The $1200 payment is part and parcel of that phenomenon and just another example of his administrations ineptitude and graft. Everything you learned from that guy's free advertisement letter was pretty obvious to most. I just don't understand the half-baked platitudes and ridiculous thankful murmurs at a time when most business people are grumbling and really, really hurting. This is not a reality tv show.
Tom LaHaye · April 9, 2020 at 10:44 pm
Give me a break. Your $1,200 check has nothing to do with this bank or it's CEO. Are you saying you learned nothing from this letter? Man, I wish I was as knowledgeable (maybe even all-knowing) as you are. Since I'm not, I learned:

More than half of small businesses will be struggling or will have failed within three months.

Loan forgiveness applies to interest, rent, and utilities in addition to payroll.

Atlantic Union is dedicating significant resources to make this still nebulous program work for their customers.

I learned key documentation required.

It was stressed that this is a first come first served program, and funds are limited.

And finally, I learned that this bank CEO was willing to make the time during this incredibly busy time to share his knowledge and what his bank(s) are doing to ease us through and out of this crisis.

Finally, a bot? No, I'm a twenty year citizen of Fauquier county. You can find me in the phone book, and I haven't hidden behind a "handle" since CB radio days.

FairandBalanced · April 9, 2020 at 10:19 pm
what was informative about that letter? what are they doing during these difficult times? OMG, i live among zombies. please god, help me! anybody out there!? has anyone received a penny from this current relief fund or stimulus package? have you gotten your $1200 check? Another ruse. Who the hell is Tom LaHaye? A russian bot?
Tom LaHaye · April 9, 2020 at 9:47 pm
Thank you for your timely and informative letter. Thanks too for what you're doing for your customers in these difficult times.
FairandBalanced · April 9, 2020 at 9:32 am
Reports say Trump removed Glenn Fine from his role as the acting inspector general, meaning the career government official is now ineligible to serve on the stimulus oversight board charged with monitoring spending and preventing any mishandling of the public’s relief funds.
FairandBalanced · April 8, 2020 at 10:56 pm
why don't the banks trust the Feds? because of trump. he is a liar, a cheater, a coward and his word is no good and he has surrounded himself with third rate advisers who lie and cheat themselves (e.g., kushner, moldy, esper, pompeo, pence, navaro, miller, barr and on and on and on....)
FairandBalanced · April 8, 2020 at 10:33 pm
What a crock of shit! Name one borrower who had received money from you through the SBA loan program, TO DATE!? Name one! Hey Joe public, little business owner, if you got money from this guy, Asbury, please come forward and assuage us! Most banks are stalling, coughing, throwing out road blocks, obfuscating, creating bureaucratic red tape and not lending the money! You know why!? They don't trust the government! Government says *lend the money*. Banks say *give us the money first, then we will lend it.* Why are the banks pushing back on the Feds? They don't trust the Feds! The banks don't believe the Feds are going to make the banks whole after all these SBA loans start to default. ANARCHY!
badelectronics · April 8, 2020 at 8:06 am
Dear John,

Thanks to you and all the people at Atlantic Union that are helping out small business owners.


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