Opinion

Recognizing the Resilience Of America’s Small and Franchised Businesses — and the Bankers Who Helped Protect Them

Yesterday marked the start of National Small Business Week, a time to recognize the important role small and franchised businesses play as the backbone of our economy. Over the past 18 months, America’s small and franchised businesses have contended with lockdowns, labor shortages, supply-chain issues and other economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year, National Small Business Week means something more and the Consumer Bankers Association, International Franchise Association, National Association of Women Business Owners and U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce are joining forces to acknowledge the perseverance of our nation’s 30 million small and franchised businesses, as well as the indelible role America’s leading banks have played to support them during this economic crisis.

Small and franchised businesses contribute nearly 45 percent of the nation’s economic output and employ almost 60 million of our friends, neighbors and family members. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of small and franchised business owners across the country were forced to implement staffing changes or shutter their operations altogether at no fault of their own.

Thankfully, with the passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act in March 2020, America’s leading banks immediately mobilized to help local businesses in the communities they serve. Banks devoted significant time and resources to stand up and administer one of the most successful emergency relief programs in American history — Paycheck Protection Program — ensuring small and franchised businesses could keep their doors open, their lights on and employees on the payroll.

In coordination with the U.S. Small Business Administration, large banks administered more than 4 million PPP loans, accounting for over $400 billion and making up more than half the total dollar amount lent through the entire program. Ultimately, the PPP helped protect more than 90 million small-business jobs and saved nearly 20,000 locally owned franchises.

As with any program of this magnitude, issues arose during the rollout and implementation of the PPP that left some small and franchised businesses grappling with technical glitches, eligibility requirements and ever-changing guidance. Together, we were proud to work with the SBA to resolve these, including simplifying the forgiveness process for loans less than $150,000, amounting to the equivalent of $7 billion in additional relief. To date, more than 80 percent of PPP loans administered in 2020 have completed the forgiveness process. As more 2021 PPP borrowers begin seeking forgiveness, our organizations remain fully committed to ensuring every small and franchised business participating in the PPP receives the relief they deserve.

Recognizing the lasting economic impact of the pandemic on small and franchised businesses, some of the nation’s largest financial institutions — including Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Citigroup — are reinvesting PPP fee income to nonprofit programs designed to help them rebuild. Through its Open for Business Fund, Wells Fargo has already contributed over $420 million to fuel the growth of minority-owned small businesses in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods across America, while other banks including PNC and Truist have announced similar initiatives aimed at spurring a sustainable and equitable recovery across every community they serve.

From gyms and salons to restaurants and factories, the effects of the PPP and the role of bankers in the process were felt by small and franchised businesses of all shapes and sizes, including the Braswell Child Development Center in Dallas, Texas, whose enrollment plummeted 80 percent during the pandemic. As Murriel Webb, CEO of Braswell’s parent company said, “We, however, were able to sustain our employees here simply because we worked closely with Comerica Bank as they guided us through the process to successfully secure the PPP loan.”

When Liscio’s Italian Bakery in New Jersey received its PPP funds, owner Charles Vilotti expressed a similar sentiment, stating “we like to say that banks are these places that give you umbrellas when it stops raining, [TD Bank] gave us an umbrella, almost at the first sign of rain.”

And thanks to its bilingual programs, USHCC was able to connect Mestizo Mexican Cuisine — a family-owned restaurant in Charlotte, North Carolina — with bankers who provided the PPP loan that ultimately prevented employees from losing their jobs and struggling to make ends meet.

For well over a century, the nation’s leading banks have financed the American Dream for small and franchised businesses in every community they serve. This commitment was reaffirmed over the course of the last 18 months and continues today. Take time this week to visit a small business and thank them for the sacrifices they have made during this economic crisis. They have shown tremendous ingenuity and leadership to safely reopen and remain open. Thanks to bankers, American small businesses remain strong, resilient and poised to lead our economic recovery.

 

Richard Hunt is president & CEO of the Consumer Bankers Association. Matthew Haller is president & CEO of the International Franchise Association. Jen Earle is national CEO of the National Association of Women Business Owners. Ramiro Cavazos is president & CEO of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

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