By Janet Garufis
We have all witnessed first-hand the serious and immediate impacts of the pandemic on local small businesses, our friends, neighbors and ourselves.
Many workers have been furloughed or are now unemployed as non-essential businesses close and others learn to operate under restrictions that provide safe social distancing.
At Montecito Bank & Trust, phone calls from our clients began more than three weeks ago as the crisis began to build. We reached out to our business customers, calling to ask what we could do to help? As we waited for Congress to act, to provide some immediate relief for our community, MB&T reinstated our payment deferral program and disaster relief loans for consumers and businesses (first developed as a response to the twin disasters in 2018). We helped dozens of businesses the first week with payment deferrals and loans and the applications continue to increase exponentially.
Now that Congress has passed the CARES Act, significant relief is on its way. There are resources available to answer your questions. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce very recently published an excellent small business guide and checklist for CoronaVirus Emergency Loans which is a good place to start.
One of the most welcomed parts of this legislation is the Paycheck Protection Program, which authorizes up to $349 billion toward job retention and other expenses.
Small businesses and eligible nonprofit organizations, veterans organizations and tribal businesses, as well as individuals who are self-employed or are independent contractors, are eligible if they also meet program size standards. The SBA Paycheck Protection Program overview reports that it “is designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on payroll by providing each small business a loan up to $10 million for payroll and certain other expenses.
If all employees are kept on payroll for eight weeks, SBA will forgive the portion of the loans used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest or utilities. Up to 100 percent of the loan is forgivable.”
You can go to www.sba.gov/page/coronavirus-Covid-19-small-business-guidance-loan-resources for more information, eligibility requirements or to apply.
It is likely to take at least a few weeks before the SBA and other agencies provide banks with the guidelines for implementation of these loans. Until then, MB&T will continue to assist local businesses and consumers with our own relief loans and deferrals.
We have designated our Hollister branch as the COVID-19 Loan Relief Center, staffed with an experienced team of specialists to assist with questions over the phone that our clients might have about our relief loan options and the CARES Act, as well as to help you through the process.
For more information you can call our designated Relief Center phone number 1 (833)-MBT 4 SBA (628-4722) or visit montecito.bank.
In addition, we are in high gear implementing a streamlined, online application process for SBA loans.
As the various orders to “maintain social distance,” “stay home,” and close all non-essential businesses have followed quickly on each other, we can only hope that these measures really do help our communities flatten the curve.
• Janet Garufis is the chairman and CEO of Montecito Bank & Trust.