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Local bank CEO says SBA loans have been difficult, but necessary for community

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to negatively impact the economy at each level, many local businesses have applied for loans through the federal government’s Small Business Administration as part of the Paycheck Protection Program.

Many of those loans come through local banks, like Farmers National Bank in Danville. It’s not been an easy task to handle the volume of loans, according to CEO Greg Caudill, but it’s been necessary for the local business community to survive.

Caudill said that since the implementation of the PPP, his staff has worked diligently to provide the necessary loans for businesses struggling to keep employees on payroll, as well as pay rent, mortgage, utilities, etc.

“I could not be more proud of them,” Caudill said.

Caudill said that Farmers National Bank has processed a total of 368 applications since the implementation of the PPP last month, with those loans totaling approximately $35 million.

It hasn’t been easy, Caudill said, noting that there have been several hiccups along the way as banks sought guidance on how the program operated. There were plenty of other challenges along the way too, he said.

There was a delayed release of guidance and then lots of confusion surrounding the guidance,” Caudill said. “The SBA website crashed multiple times and it was a very short turnaround time given the volume of requests.”

Banks are an essential business during the COVID-19 pandemic, and while juggling an abnormally high volume of loan requests, Caudill said focus has also been on making sure employees are staying healthy while still providing a critical service during this unprecedented time.

Caudill said the bank has made many changes since the onset of the pandemic in Kentucky, and while things may look a little different, he said the bank is still providing the same quality services that its customers are accustomed to.

“We reduced the number of staff at every location by at least 50 percent,” Caudill said. “This was achieved by people working remotely, creating rotating teams who continue to be fully compensated, and moving staff to different locations or offices. We currently have 14 percent of our staff (190 employees) working from home. Prior to this, no one worked from home.”

The changes have allowed Farmers National Bank to avoid any layoffs or furloughs during this period, Caudill said.

On top of staffing changes, Caudill said the bank has taken other precautionary measures. Among them are employees wearing masks and having plenty of access to hand sanitizer by working with a local distiller and customer, eliminating face-to-face meetings by using Microsoft Teams, moving lobby access to appointment-only and screening customers before meeting with staff, and increasing sanitizing and cleaning of common surfaces and ATMs/ITMs.

Caudill had high praise for his team that has continued to work hard during this time period and said their dedication and commitment has been extraordinary.

“The fact that our bank made 368 PPP loans totaling $35 million in a two-week period was a Herculean task,” Caudill said. “Our folks worked nights and weekends to get this done because many of their neighbors and business owners had to have it to survive.”