As we live through these historic times, our country is fighting back against the COVID-19 pandemic. By all accounts, since this pandemic was unleashed in China’s Wuhan province sometime last year, it has spread globally, impacting the lives of everyone. Life as we know it is on hold: Businesses have been ordered to close, resulting in massive sudden unemployment, and there are no sports, no concerts, no gatherings by any group whatsoever. This pandemic has changed our lives in many ways. We have stay-at-home orders, curfews and social-distancing guidelines, even though these terms were not even in our vocabulary just weeks ago. Medical professionals, first responders, those who work in the fields picking our food, and supermarket employees are all my heroes. They are on the front lines helping us get through this crisis.
FDIC banks of all sizes are also playing a crucial role in this crisis by helping to meet the economic needs of Floridians. To help accomplish this, Congress passed the CARES ACT, which the president signed into law in late March. That bill contained a section named the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which contained $350 billion to assist small businesses with less than 500 employees keep their doors open by granting a forgivable loan to help pay for the salaries and other related costs of doing business. Credit to the creation of the PPP goes to our own Sen. Marco Rubio. His leadership has been instrumental in the passage of the bill. I also want to thank Sen. Rick Scott and members of Florida’s congressional delegation who voted for this Act on a bi-partisan basis and, of course, President Donald Trump and his administration.
Since April 3, the first day that loan applications could be taken in by the PPP program, Florida’s FDIC banks of all sizes, have been working around the clock processing these PPP loans on the Small Business Administration (SBA) system for approval before the fund is depleted. The SBA systems were not ready on April 3 for the avalanche of loan applications it would begin to receive. After a few days of delays and red tape, I must give the SBA credit—their systems improved, and all Florida banks were finally able to access their systems to assist Florida small businesses with a PPP loan.
As of April 16, more than $341 billion in PPP loans have been approved to small businesses around the nation. Florida ranks third in the amount of PPP loans approved for small businesses totaling $17.8 billion. It is unbelievable that the PPP has been as successful as it has in such a short turn around time from passage of the Act to disbursement of PPP loan dollars.
The Senate agreed this week to a bipartisan $484 billion legislative package that would increase funding for the Paycheck Protection Program by $310 billion, boost a separate small business emergency grant and loan program by $60 billion, and direct $75 billion to hospitals and $25 billion to a new coronavirus testing program.
This bill upon becoming law will help American workers and companies survive this crisis. Small business owners should not delay and should apply today by and through their FDIC bank of choice. As our state and nation begins to get out of this crisis, the PPP loans will hopefully help many Florida small businesses survive. Together we will get through this and Florida’s FDIC banking industry will play a pivotal role in our national and state economic recovery.
Alex Sanchez is president and CEO of the Florida Bankers Association.