Around the world, the numbers continue to stagger the imagination when it comes to the impact of the Coronavirus and the toll it has taken in lives throughout the world and here in the United States. The human tragedy has been heartbreaking, and we are still fighting that battle on a day to day basis and are reminded about it every evening across the networks, as that story leads on every channel.
There is another impact the virus has, however. That battle is being fought on a completely separate front line, with another set of soldiers fighting to protect other victims which are being assaulted by this very same scourge that is affecting us here at home and across the world. Those victims are the small business owners who make up the backbone of the American economy.
The White House and the Congress have recognized the need to move quickly to shore up the economy within the country when they passed the recent $2.2 Trillion economic relief plan last month, which is known as the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aide and Relief and Economic Security Act). Some of those monies will be going to provide expanded unemployment benefits for workers laid off as a result of the many closings in and around our nation in addition to checks to every American, separate from that.
Another portion of that money will be going to the Paycheck Protection Program. A total of $349 Billion will be set aside for that assistance. This will help employers keep providing paychecks for their employees during the slowdown. The retention of those employees is an essential for when the virus is brought under control and these men and women are needed back to revitalize and reopen those businesses. In addition to that, the monies can be utilized over an eight-week period to cover payroll, mortgage/and or rent, and utilities.
Today, there are approximately 30.2 million small businesses in America, which accounts for 99 % of all those companies employing people. A small business is defined as employing less than 500 people. Those small businesses employ 58.9 million people, which makes up 47.5% of the country’s total employee workforce.
No one understands that better than Garrett Richter, President and CEO of First Florida Integrity Bank who is a longtime veteran of the banking industry in Florida. First Integrity is a locally owned and operated Community Bank headquartered here in Naples operating 7 locations and has a branch on Marco Island.
In addition to extensive banking experience, Richter has also served 10 years as a member of the Florida Legislature, the last 8 in the Florida Senate from 2008 to 2016, representing parts of Collier and Lee Counties in Tallahassee. He has brought his deep understanding of the banking business to a role as Chairman of the Senate’s Banking and Insurance Committee, amongst other prestigious committee chairmanships.
As soon as the Paycheck Protection Program was announced as part of the overall stimulus package, Richter’s office began fielding hundreds of calls a day regarding how they should proceed to access that assistance. Most were already working with his bank, but others were disappointed that their financial institution was not already a 7-A approved institution with the SBA who is administering the program. First, Florida did expedite the procedure and submitted to the SBA for their 7-A approval and have received their delegated authority to make those PPP loans.
“Of particular interest to First Florida Integrity Bank was our ability to work with our customers who have been dramatically impacted by these events and to assist them with the benefits of this act. These include a wide variety of those that have been impacted from restaurants to non-profits that were particularly hard hit,” Richter stated. “The last couple of days we have put up the loan application information online and are helping businesses throughout Collier and Lee to get that paperwork in the pipeline.”
Over an eight-week period, the short-term loan will cover payroll, mortgage/and or rent, and utilities. To be eligible, you have to employ less than 500 people, be a sole proprietor, an independent contractor or a 501-C3. The total loan amount cannot be above 2 ½ times their monthly expenses, but not exceed $10 million per business.
The loans themselves will be for 1% over a 2-year period, there is no prepayment penalty, no collateral is required, or personal guarantees necessary, according to Richter. Another benefit is there will be a loan-forgiveness program provided borrowers meet certain criteria.
Those interested in the program can simply go to www.firstfloridaintegritybank.com and click on the link on their home page to review, as well as download the simple application and instructions.
Credit Unions approved SBA Lenders and all FDIC banks all qualify to submit for approval for participation in the program being run by the SBA.
“We feel a special responsibility to this community to be there for so many of these great families that make Southwest Florida such a wonderful place to live and work in. Being someone that has spent his entire adult professional life working in community banking and in service to our community we are committed to making this work,” Richter said last Friday.