Wisconsin lenders are preparing to disburse millions of dollars in loans through the federal Paycheck Protection Program.

Banks and other lenders through the U.S. Small Business Administration have been taking applications to the program since April 3. The Paycheck Protection Program was created through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, a federal stimulus package that aims to address the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The PPP began with $349 billion. As of Monday afternoon, the SBA said more than 941,000 applications for the forgivable loans were approved, which totaled more than $228 billion worth of funds. They were approved by about 4,600 lending institutions.

That includes Wisconsin lenders, like Johnson Bank. As of Monday, the Racine-based financial institution processed and approved more than 1,700 PPP applications; more than 1,100 were approved by the SBA.

The bank, part of Johnson Financial Group, now plans to start funding the applications within the SBA’s guidance that the first disbursement of the loan should take place no later than 10 calendar days from the date of approval.

Jim Popp, president and chief executive officer of Johnson Financial Group, said by email that the PPP has been a learning process for everyone involved.

“In the absence of a reliable automated process early on, we at (Johnson Financial Group) have manually processed over 1,700 applications for more than $600MM so far,” Popp said. “I’m incredibly proud of the work that our team has done to support our clients and our communities through this program.”

Port Washington State Bank received 333 applications as of Monday and approved 291. The bank is funding 18 loans Monday. The largest application was for $2.58 million, while the smallest was for about $2,500.

"We encourage prospective borrowers to educate themselves as much as possible about this program and ensure it is the right fit for their business,” Port Washington State Bank president and chief operating officer James Schowalter said in a statement. “We’ll continue to work hard at (Port Washington State Bank) along with our peers to process as many of these vital loans as possible in the coming weeks.”

Commerce State Bank, based in West Bend, has received more than 200 applications and approved most of them, said CEO Joe Fazio. He expects the bank will finish processing the remaining PPP applications by the end of the day Tuesday, depending on how many more come in.

He said the applications range in amount from about $10,000 to more than $1.5 million. Commerce State Bank has approved requests for a more than $60 million cumulative, Fazio said.

Wisconsin business owners also turned to institutions like BMO Harris Bank. As of mid-day Monday, Wisconsin businesses submitted more than 1,250 applications to the lender, and more than $950 million worth have secured SBA approval. In total, the firm has received SBA authorization for $3.4 billion in funding for about 4,000 borrowers, including nonprofit organizations, according to Dave Casper, CEO of BMO Financial Group U.S.

In a statement, he said the company funded its first loans Friday and expects to fund most of the others this week and next.

“We’ve been adapting quickly to meet the needs of our business customers,” Casper stated. “We’ve assembled hundreds of people across the organization, working around the clock since the program was launched to accept, validate and submit applications for the Paycheck Protection Program.”

In addition to banks, borrowers are turning to other SBA lenders like the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corp., based in Milwaukee.

As of Monday, programs and operations vice president Kamaljit Jackson said WWBIC received 74 PPP inquiries. The organization is finalizing its internal process to ensure low-to-moderate income clients are served first. WWBIC is not taking applications from businesses that are not clients, Jackson said.

This week or early next, WWBIC expects to open the application process for internal clients only, Jackson said.

Associated Bank CEO Phil Flynn also told the Milwaukee Business Journal that the Green Bay-based institution was set to fund about 2,300 PPP loans early this week.

Article by Sari Lesk – Reporter,  Milwaukee Business Journal