Since mid-March, life as we’ve known it has undeniably changed. A new “temporary normal” rapidly settled in, and the truth is, we don’t know how long it will remain.
I have been inspired to see how our communities and neighbors have pulled together (with the social distancing needed) to support each other as businesses, schools and government programs are temporarily shuttered. The resilience is strong, but the reality is that thousands of jobs have been lost, and financial concerns among our local businesses are very real.
Bremer is largely a business and ag bank, and we are a witness to how crucial our small businesses are to our local economies. Today, these businesses are facing difficult challenges, many rethinking their value proposition and considering all options to preserve their companies.
This is why hundreds on the Bremer team have spent several days and tireless hours working around the clock, devoting their efforts to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP): a $349 billion loan program allocated by the CARES Act and administered by the Small Business Administration. PPP’s purpose is to help small businesses and nonprofits keep their workers on payroll for up to two months during the COVID-19 outbreak through forgivable loans.
The program, which launched April 3, was announced in late March with much anticipation. Like other institutions and the public community, we learned about crucial pieces of the program as the details came together in real-time. The analogy we’ve heard used is, “building a plane while it’s in the air,” which is what the SBA has been doing. The CARES Act is the largest stimulus action in the history of the United States, the SBA is doing amazing and critical work, and Bremer has been working as hard as we can to do our part to support it and our communities. I am so proud to say that the Bremer team has worked with determination to make sure our customers were informed and ready to go as soon as the program launched.
As of April 14, just 11 days after the program launched, this incredible effort has translated to:
- Over 4,000 applications submitted.
- Over 2,000 applications approved.
- More than $1 billion in approved loans.
- Over 100,000 employees helped throughout our footprint of Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin.
We expect that as of April 14, at least $250 billion of the allocated $349 billion has already been claimed, so we are advising our customers to apply as soon as possible. While we sincerely hope all applications that are in the pipeline get approved and funded, it’s not something we can guarantee. We have heard about the potential for additional funding by Congress, and I certainly hope that comes to pass, but the truth is we don’t know what will happen.
Bremer’s purpose of cultivating thriving communities, instilled in us by our founder Otto Bremer, has never had more meaning. Otto believed that banks should be there for communities in good times and bad. We hold that belief dear, and we will continue to honor his legacy as long as our customers continue to place their trust in us.
I reflect every day on how privileged I am to do this work, and to do it in this company. It is undeniably a challenging and uncertain time. As for Bremer, I know I can say on behalf of our entire team that we remain committed to doing the best we can in the communities we serve. I am confident will pull through this together and be stronger and more focused than ever on the purpose of our work.