There is no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic has had a huge effect on the small business community. Throughout the spring, summer, and fall advocates for those trying to keep their doors open called for conformity to state guidelines and health regulations, as well as bolstered patronage of local businesses. 

But what about the federal program that came along in the spring when the pandemic forced businesses across the state and country to shut down?

The Paycheck Protection Program was intended to get businesses through an eight-week period, allowing them to take a forgivable loan out to cover certain costs. Menzo Case, CEO of Generations Bank, said his institution helped more than 300 local small businesses secure PPP loans. 

“I am proud to say that through the PPP program, we were able to get millions of dollars into the hands of hundreds of local businesses at a critical time,” Case said this week.

Senior Vice President of Lending Ken Winn called it a focused effort internally. “Generations Bank truly focused our PPP efforts on the small business owner. The average loan nationwide was $101,000 while at Generations it was $33,000,” he added. 

At this point, the focus is on ensuring that businesses are able to get the necessary paperwork done to have those loans forgiven. The CARES Act is funding that forgiveness process. “Many of the businesses we were assisting had been overlooked by other lending institutions,” A.G. Cutrona, who serves as Senior Vice President for Growth & Profitability, explained. “We have been working closely with the SBA to successfully process the forgiveness applications in a timely fashion and have had good turnaround times from the SBA. We continue to encourage our customers to put together their forgiveness packages so that we can expedite their requests and get one more financial concern off of their plate.”

Dr. James Cogar from Vision Eye Care said the PPP loan saved his business. “It allowed me to maintain my staff,” he explained. “Government programs are usually difficult [but this one] was relatively easy.”

Over 33 percent of the loans have already been processed for forgiveness by Generations Bank.

However, the pandemic has prompted some larger agencies to step up, as economic recovery takes center stage. As the region deals with “wave number two,” there is some concern that more businesses may shut down. 

That is why the Greater Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council launched an economic development initiative to address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. It said the new initiative is being funded by the US Economic Development Administration and will help ensure economic resiliency in Seneca and surrounding counties that make up the Finger Lakes region.

GFLRPC Executive Director Jay Gsell said it will focus on community-level enhancements to bolster the overall economic recovery of the region.

“In our role to support regional economic development planning, we serve as the region’s EDA Economic Development District, and have actively pursued state and federal support for economic development initiatives since 1974,” Gsell said. “The goal is to create a path towards recovery and to help our communities find the resources they need to move forward on that path. It is our hope that, with effective research, planning and communication, we can strengthen our region by sharing information on best practices for recovery, resiliency and growth. We also want to make sure our communities are fully aware of all the resources that are available to them to aid in the recovery effort.”

Economic recovery work is funded under the program for the next 18 months and will evolve as conditions change. For local businesses, the word of more help is welcomed in whatever shape it takes.

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