By Jamie Sonnabend, VP, Sr. Market Manager in Franklin County MA, People’s United Bank

When the US Small Business Administration rolled out its Paycheck Protection Program last spring, it felt like we were caught up in something like The Hunger Games movies. Businesses were contemplating their next step and how to continue to support their customers and employees throughout the pandemic, and none of us knew what lay ahead.

It’s sometimes hard to believe a year has passed since the pandemic’s impacts were first felt, and the PPP Program introduced. There hasn’t been as much public attention lately, but PPP was replenished with $284.5 billion in January and another $7.5 billion in the most recent COVID relief bill.

But here’s what Franklin County businesses need to know: the program is scheduled to expire on March 31. Many business groups are urging Congress and the Biden Administration to extend the program and the House of Representatives voted a six-month extension recently, but similar action in the Senate hasn’t yet happened.

We can help you move quickly if you’re ready, and we can help you get your business ready by walking you through the requirements. PPP is a critically important business resource. While the vaccination program holds hope for better days ahead, we know that many businesses still have real capital needs and revenue models that haven’t returned to normal. This latest round PPP funding is now much more mature. It functions smoothly and predictably— good to know since so little has been predictable over the past 12 months.

Importantly, the SBA has added categories of spending that qualify for loan forgiveness, but because the novelty has worn off there just hasn’t been as much public attention paid to the valuable opportunity that still exists.

As a reminder, PPP allows for rapidly processed loans for affected businesses and, as long as the loan money is spent on approved categories of expenses, the loan can be forgiven—direct funding from the Federal Government for those who are hurting. The loan forgiveness categories include expenditures for a list of categories too long to list here, but which can be found on our website.

I’ve been impressed, too, that the SBA has been listening to its borrowers and as a result added eligible spending categories to the program in January. Some of those include specific spending that has been necessary simply because the pandemic has lasted longer than was anticipated a year ago—restocking needed supplies, software costs related to adjusting to virtual transactions and customer relationships that were previously conducted in person, and importantly the cost of making your business safer for your employees and customers by allowing spending on masks, physical barriers installed to reduce aerosol virus transmission.

At People’s United we were proud of the way we stepped up for our customers. We were among the first banks to begin accepting PPP applications and in total issued more than $2.6 billion in PPP loans during the first two rounds in 2020. Locally, in Franklin and Hampshire counties we have helped more than 100 businesses supporting the paychecks of more than 800 employees with loans totaling over $6 million. The team managing the loan process for us created and deployed “bots” to automatically submit the loan applications to SBA’s system when they realized how difficult it was to get through the online traffic on SBA’s computer system. We have also launched a PPP Helpline, our remote call center staffed 9-5 Monday thru Friday by 20 managers throughout our footprint for our customers to seek expert advice. This has included 2 local team members, myself and Kelly Gagnon, manager of our Shelburne Falls branch.

Applying for a PPP loan now feels very much like a traditional banking transaction and can be a valuable tool to help manage the ongoing challenges of this pandemic.

Jamie Sonnabend can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
People's United Bank, Greenfield

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