By Janet Garufis
It’s after 8 p.m. on April 27, the day the second tranche of PPP funding was made available by the Small Business Administration, and I’ve just completed our PPP update call with the dedicated group of Montecito Bank & Trust professionals who are responsible for making PPP a reality for hundreds of businesses in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
We were all at our desks before 7 a.m. to be certain we could enter loans into the SBA’s system when it opened at 7:30 a.m. As predicted, SBA systems crashed about 30 minutes into the day and continued to operate intermittently all day. In fact, for the very few applications we needed to submit manually, the system was so challenging that in one instance it took nearly 9.5 hours to get one of the applications submitted.
What has been a challenging and frustrating experience for bankers and customers alike surely continued into this second round. For the last two weeks, since the last funding was exhausted, our team of bankers has worked literally around the clock to process the remaining 500 plus applications so they would be ready for today because they wanted to be sure they did everything they could to get funding to the local community.
These are loans for all kinds of local businesses and nonprofit organizations, most customers of MB&T, and some for non-customers whose banks couldn’t help them. But all of these businesses and nonprofit organizations are in need of help, help to stay afloat until we can all reopen.
What these organizations have in common is their commitment to their employees, their customers and clients, commitment to helping them through this crisis. What these extraordinary bankers have in common is their unwavering commitment to doing what is right to help the businesses and nonprofit organizations that make our communities the wonderful places they are to live and work. It’s personal.
I’ve been in the banking business nearly 50 years. I can honestly say that in all that time, I have never worked with a finer team than the MB&T team I had have the privilege of building a PPP process to serve our business communities.
At the close of business today, we have committed to fund hundreds of loans for nearly $200 million. That $200 million will help businesses and nonprofit organizations make payroll, continue their work in whatever socially distanced fashion is allowed, make sure the rent is paid and the lights are on.
The loans will ensure their employees will continue to have their medical benefits at a time when we all need them most. These loans will help local entrepreneurs hang on to the dreams they set in motion the day they opened for business.
This process has been fraught with all sorts of missteps: loans to companies who could have found funding elsewhere and are now returning their loans, volumes of loan requests that no bank was ready to handle and frustration for every business owner trying to apply, every banker trying to respond, and the SBA that was not designed to respond to this level of demand.
But, true to our missions, community banks have been able to get the funding out to those businesses who needed it most in the communities we serve.
We know there are faces and dreams connected to every loan request and that each of the business owners we help are an integral part of our economy. Each of us does our part to make our economy work.
We are proud to have been a small part of helping to get us back on the road to recovery. We are, after all, in this together.
• Janet Garufis is the chairman and CEO of Montecito Bank & Trust.