Greenwood photographer Andrew Lamb is relieved and grateful that his family’s business has been approved for a Payroll Protection Program loan so he can pay his studio’s six employees for the next couple of months.
And Lamb said he is grateful for the fast, careful work provided by the Greenwood banking community in processing not only Lamb’s Photography’s loan but also those of other small businesses in the area.
“It’s more important than ever, now, to be supporting local people,” Lamb said.
His banker, Eric Miller, the president of the Indianola-based Planters Bank’s Greenwood operations, has similar thoughts.
The Commonwealth is providing this story for free as a public service. Please support our journalism by subscribing today.
He said his bank and the others in town went straight to work assisting customers and processing applications as soon as they became available April 3 through the federal Small Business Administration. The loan program is a large component of the federal government’s $2.2 trillion CARES economic stimulus package. In Mississippi, banks have processed more than 14,000 loans valued at almost $2 billion, according to the Mississippi Bankers Association.
“I think all of us, all of the banks, have worked throughout the weekend and late into the nights trying to process as many of these as we can,” Miller said.
Small businesses are not charged fees, but banks earn origination fees from 5% to 1%, depending on the size of the loan. Generally, the loans are limited to companies with less than 500 employees. The loans, according to the SBA, will be forgiven if 75% is spent on payroll and employees are maintained or quickly rehired.
“Yes, we will make money, but we are not looking at this as a moneymaker,” Miller said. “We want to help the community. That’s more important to us.”
Certified public accountants have had a role in the process. At Fred T. Neely, CPAs Bobby Vandevender, Stribling Hargett and Lance Mohamed wrote a joint statement: “We took immediate action. We closely followed the legislative process. We wanted to be informed and prepared to help all of our eligible clients immediately once the funding was made available. The funds from SBA were being issued on a first-come, first-served basis.
“We reached out to the local SBA approved lenders (Greenwood banks) to get an idea of what paper work was going to be required for these applications.
“The process moved quickly with frequent changes and guidelines relating to eligibility requirements. We contacted all eligible clients and informed them of the programs that were available to help provide relief during this time of economic uncertainty. We then started preparing the applications as soon as the SBA released their initial borrower application forms.
“We wanted our eligible clients to be ‘first in line’ on April 3, the day SBA began accepting applications. Over the last several weeks, we have prepared, advised, assisted our clients in the submission of hundreds of Payroll Protection applications.”
Lamb’s Photography is one of the many Greenwood businesses for which income is particularly seasonal. Winter months are usually slow, so money made at other times of the year carries the studio through the first of the year until spring finally arrives with senior portraits, graduations and proms.
In a way, it didn’t this year. “I have zero income right now besides a few online orders and loose orders that were still up in the air,” Lamb said. “If the schools were in session, we’d be fine.”
The loan gives him time to figure out what to do, but it only covers two months. “After that, it is still going to be hard,” he said. “It is still scary, but I am trying my best to be positive.”
Matt Gnemi, who is the managing partner in Webster’s restaurant and Fresh Laundry, also said the loan program is providing relief during a difficult time. He received loans for the restaurant and dry cleaner. Business has declined for the latter, and Webster’s now is limited in what it can offer customers.
The Payroll Protection loan covers the salaries of full and part-time employees — 20 at Webster’s and nine at Fresh Laundry. “This will help at Webster’s, where we have cut back drastically,” Gnemi said.
The loan helps “bridge the gap until we can back to normal,” he said. “It’s certainly a tough time. You can’t help but wonder if the cure for this disease is worse than the disease itself.”
Lamb said, “I had a bank that cared about me and worked with me. I think a lot of banks in Greenwood were that way.”
Miller said, “We have been told the community banks have gotten the money out a lot faster than some of the larger banks.”
Banks in small towns know their customers as friends and neighbors, which provides an extra incentive to assist them during hard times. Plus, small businesses are essential to the community’s overall well being, he said. “If they start closing down in Greenwood, we are all in trouble.”
•Contact Susan Montgomery at 581-7241 or email@example.com.