Lone Star National Bank President David Deanda knew he and his staff had the challenge of a banking lifetime before them.
The outbreak of COVID-19 had brought the South Texas economy to a sudden and shocking halt. Small businesses in the Rio Grande Valley were soon desperate for help. The federal government offered two lifelines. One was the Paycheck Protection Program. The other was the Economic Injury Disaster program.
Both initiatives were tied to the Small Business Administration and offered loan forgiveness if certain conditions are met. There were rules and regulations, and applications to be completed if small businesses wanted to receive the emergency aid. They then turned to community banks for help to figure it out.
Lone Star National Bank and other community banks had to move fast to research and learn about the two programs. Resources would go fast if not sought promptly. Deanda knew his customers and others desperate for help would reach out to them for help.
“You never depend on a bank until you really need one,” he said.
Lone Star National offices were swamped with calls. In April, Deanda said his staff often worked seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., helping small businesses fill out applications and gathering data for emergency funding.
“Community banks have a vested interest in making sure small businesses are successful,” Deanda said. “It’s real tough to see any business suffer when a crisis like this hits.
“It caught everyone by surprise,” he said. “They (small businesses) were not prepared for it from a cash flow perspective.”
Moving Quickly To Get Funds
The first round of PPP funding went fast. The program was focused on helping businesses meet payroll for a handful of months while keeping workers employed. Some businesses were barely in the application process when PPP funds were exhausted by national demand. The SBA disaster loans are for more long-term recovery. The agency’s systems struggled to accommodate the crush of requests, yet Lone Star National was able to get through for some of its customers in getting emergency loans offered by the two programs. Customers were appreciative for whatever help they could get.
“Thank you for being there and helping our small business through the COVID-19 virus,” Joaquin Zamora said in a post on LNB’s Facebook page. “Beginning to end, (LNB was there) with our PPP application.”
Deanda has recognized his loan administration processors on his bank’s Facebook page in crediting their work on behalf of customers. Those posts then generated additional comments of gratitude from customers.
“I’ve never received more thank-you calls than I’ve gotten in the last few weeks,” he said of a four-decade-long banking career.
The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the need for community banks, Deanda said. Larger bank companies are often preoccupied with larger accounts and don’t make time for a boutique as Deanda did in helping the business with a $12,000 loan. Both the response and efforts of community banks across the Valley has been gratifying, he said, in how they’ve worked toward helping small businesses.
“We need to promote and shop local,” he said. “If we stay together, we can get through it.”