Empathy, Expertise Help Ease the PPP Loan Process

The success of a small business is so often tied to the relationships it builds within its community. It’s the comfortable encounters that go beyond the goods or services being paid for that bring people back as loyal customers. When the COVID-19 pandemic began to ravage the business community, many were forced to put those relationships on hold. And because of that, they turned to a different relationship—the one with Community Bank—to keep above water.

Thousands of businesses turned to the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, a Small Business Administration (SBA)-backed loan that helped businesses keep their workforce employed during the COVID-19 crisis. Applying for this critical source of funding presented its own challenges on top of every other challenge the pandemic brought.

“Being literally responsible for the health and safety of over 2,000 athletes, many of whom had additional COVID risk because of underlying health conditions, was terrifying to me,” said Missy Shea, president and CEO of Special Olympics Vermont in South Burlington. “To do that, I needed to keep the business alive.”

Missy turned to VP, New England Regional Manager Anita Bourgeois and the Williston Commercial team at Community Bank to help navigate the application process for a PPP loan, which would allow SOVT to continue paying its employees and provide services as best it could. Anita and team went to work to make sure the application was submitted accurately and as quickly as possible, resulting in a fully funded loan.

“Special Olympics of Vermont is incredibly important to Community Bank,” Anita said, “and at that moment—that receipt of ‘Approved’—it was pretty spectacular.”

Working in the nonprofit world, Missy couldn’t overstate the importance of her strong relationship with CBNA during this trying time. “Special Olympics Vermont’s relationship with Community Bank is a gift. There are so many at Community Bank who share that same kind of dedication and, really, I think joy in the work they do. Helping people. And we appreciate it.”

Businesses of all types felt the crushing weight of uncertainty brought on by the pandemic. Altius Aviation, a premier FAA-certified charger and aviation services company in Syracuse, NY, saw business drop more than 90% overnight. With air travel at a standstill, Altius President & Direction of Operations Vaughn Crawford had to lean on someone else for help.

“For me, personally, with the number of people who rely on us for their employment and their families, I spent nights just worried about how I was going to tell them we couldn’t make it through it,” Vaughn said. He turned to Robert Liedka, senior district manager at CBNA, for help with the PPP loan process. Despite the onslaught of requests from businesses of all shapes and sizes, Rob pushed forward to get it done.

“It really put the banks in the spotlight, because you needed your bank in order to get this loan,” Rob said. “I had many phone conversations regarding funding, doing anything we could above and beyond to get that customer taken care of, to make sure they survived through the pandemic.”

And that they did. Processing the PPP loan efficiently helped Altius Aviation pay its employees and weather the storm.

“Our relationship with Community Bank was not only extremely helpful,” Vaughn said, “but it was vital to our survival through this COVID event.”

The value of personal relationships continues to be a guiding principle for small businesses and for Community Bank. It’s true that when people make it about more than the money, more can come out of it.

“It’s just a good feeling,” Anita said. “It’s a good feeling to help.”


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