Bartlett financial institutions assisting businesses, individuals during COVID

By , Special to the Daily Memphian Updated: April 18, 2020 4:00 AM CT | Published: April 18, 2020 4:00 AM CT

Two Bartlett financial institutions – Bank of Bartlett and First South Financial Credit Union – say they have all hands on deck to assist local businesses and individuals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis.

Among the ways they are helping is taking applications for the government’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), in the case of the Bank of Bartlett, and in both cases deferring and adjusting loan payments as well as offering emergency loans.

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The PPP authorized up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses to pay their employees during the COVID-19 crisis. It was announced recently that the funds have all been allocated, but another round of funding could be on the horizon.

The Bank of Bartlett was in the process of initiating the second part of the PPP program, intended for 1099 and self-employed workers, when the money ran out. 

“These U.S. workers are the very ones most at risk needing this grant in order to tide them over to hopefully better economic times,” Bank of Bartlett President Harold Byrd said, referring to the 1099 and self-employed workers. “My hope is that Congress will in the coming days allocate additional funding to the PPP program -- and possibly one to two more times as we overcome the health and economic challenges of the COVID-19 disease.”

Bank of Bartlett plans to continue to accept and process applications to have them ready to fund, and Byrd is confident Congress will implement new funding as soon as possible. 

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The loan amounts will be forgiven as long as the loan proceeds are used to cover payroll costs or most mortgage interest, rent and utility costs over the eight-week period after the loan is made. Also, employee and compensation levels must be maintained.

“The PPP program is something that we hope will be of great benefit nationwide for businesses and individuals to help to keep everyone on the payroll to help keep the economy moving,” Byrd said. “The difficulty with implementing this program has been the directions from the (Small Business Administration) have been changing every day and are open to interpretation.”

He said the bank has handled a large number of applicants over the past two weeks.

“What we’re hoping for is that in another six to eight weeks, the economy will start to resume,” Byrd said. “We’re doing all we can here to help the community and to help our client base.”

The bank’s other existing business is continuing, including inspections of properties funded by the bank, while its seven branches around the Mid-South are operating by appointment only with staff and customers wearing masks, and drive-thru. About 50% of the bank’s workforce is working onsite, with the rest working remotely.

First South

First South Financial President and CEO Dr. Craig Esrael said things that have not changed at that institution over the past month.

“We have not laid off any staff, but have redeployed them in two distinct teams throughout our banking centers and call center so we can observe social distancing guidelines and avoid cross-contamination should a team member fall ill,” Esrael said.

Esrael said most questions from customers have been about loans.

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“The questions from our members have been centered mostly on how can we help them with their loans or any fees they’ve incurred due to a job loss or a reduction in hours,” he said. “Our primary focus is developing individual plans to address the unique needs of all members and to mitigate any financial difficulties.”

Esrael said he thinks the current situation has reinforced the credit union’s mission.

“Our conservative approach to building and maintaining strong capital served us well through the Great Recession, and it will serve us well moving through this pandemic and forward,” Esrael said. “Our growth and organizational success will be uninterrupted even in the most severe scenarios.”

Because it is not a SBA lender, First South does not process applications for the PPP. However, the institution is offering deferred payments on existing loans as well as emergency loans from $500 to $5,000 with a 6% APR. The first payment can be deferred up to 90 days.

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Bank of Bartlett Harold Byrd COVID-19 First South Financial Credit Union Paycheck Protection Program

Michael Waddell

Michael Waddell is a native Memphian with more than 20 years of professional writing and editorial experience, working most recently with The Daily News and High Ground News.

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