Local banks bombarded with requests for emergency business loans

Updated: Apr. 16, 2020 at 6:03 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - To understand how much help local businesses need right now, we asked 2 local banks how many owners applied for emergency loans through the government's Paycheck Protection Program.

Hundreds of applications have come in and tens of millions of dollars are going out.

At Watertown Savings Bank, the lines are empty, but work is piled high.

"We're working hard now more than ever," said bank CEO Mark Lavarnay.

He says that's because of the Paycheck Protection Program, which offers $349 billion of federal loans for small businesses across the country It's intended to keep employees on the payroll.

Lavarnway says his bank has seen 400 applications for the program in just over a week.

"It's about $51 million for our community that we've secured," he said.

That's $51 million for Jefferson County businesses.

"We've approved loans as big as $3 million and as small as $660," said Lavarnway.

But the online systems are overwhelmed, so the bank made changes. No more 9 to 5 shifts only. Now they're working into the night.

"I was receiving emails from our staff at 1:30 in the morning as we secured funds for our customers," said Lavarnway.

And even banks which don't often do small business loans are finding themselves needing to play that role in the community right now.

"We've been extremely busy actually. Banks were not geared up for this; it's like having every one of your customers come to you at once all requesting emergency funds that they really, really need," said CEO of Carthage Savings Federal Savings and Loan Thomas Piche.

He said they've had more than $6 million approved for loans.

"We've had one very large client, and we've had a small at $6,700 as our smallest," he said.

As of Thursday, the Paycheck Protection Program has run out of money and Congress has yet to approve any more.

"I hope everybody can get part of the funds," said Piche.

“We’re working hard to get the money out the door,” said Lavarnway.

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