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Kenosha County banks, and those across Wisconsin, stepped up last month to help 43,400 of the state’s small businesses obtain more than $8.3 billion in federal Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program funds.

Quick action by banks pushed Wisconsin to near the top in processing loan requests, according to Rose Oswald Poels, president and chief executive officer of the Wisconsin Bankers Association.

“We’re proud to say that Wisconsin was 14th in the country in terms of appropriations. The banks were proactive right away. There was only $349 billion available for the first round of the program, Poels said.

Financial institutions throughout Kenosha County and southeastern Wisconsin had to process applications that poured in quickly. They had two weeks to meet the April 16 deadline for the first phase of the program.

The Paycheck Protection Program is one of several components of the multi-phased CARES Act that established stimulus payments for individuals and funds to help companies. Under PPP, recipients receive a loan that provides for their payroll cost and other financial obligations. At least 75% of the loan proceeds must be used for payroll costs, including sales, commissions and employee benefits.

The remainder is forgivable if the recipient meets strict guidelines. It can be used for lease obligations, mortgage, utilities, and several other types of expenses.

“Working long hours, we were in a race with other banks across the country to get into the system. We were trying to process all we could before the money ran out,” Poels said.

Meanwhile, local banks and federally chartered credit unions are continuing to work for a new set of applicants who hope to obtain a loan from the $310 billion pool that has been allocated for the second round of SBA disbursements.

Report favorable results

While financial institutions that service the southeastern region do not have specific statistics for clients in the Kenosha and Racine counties, they report favorable results.

“We started on April 3 with 60 employees — 20% of our workforce — processing applications, said Mark Meloy, CEO of First Business Bank.

Based in Madison, First Business maintains a presence regionally serving Kenosha County.

“As of April 22, the company had received over 600 applications from existing clients and had received conditional approval from the SBA in excess of $300 million and had disbursed approximately $280 million in funds,” Meloy said.

He attributes the fast processing to updated technology that allows business owners to apply online.

“A benefit like this goes far beyond the business,” Meloy said. “This helps them pay employees and that helps their families.”

Under the program, the SBA backs loans that financial institutions make to their clients.

Dedicated teams working on assistance

The Brookfield-based North Shore Bank has three brick-and-mortar branches in Kenosha and a branded banking office in the Festival Foods supermarket, 3207 80th St., along with five branches in Racine.

North Shore officials were unable to provide a breakdown of PPP disbursement, nor able to disclose how many small business customers it helped during the first phase of the program.

“We had a dedicated team of employees who worked late nights and early mornings to process the paperwork,” said Susan Doyle, a senior vice president of retail banking. ”We had hundreds of customers.

“We’re really excited about what we were able to do. ... We have been able to ensure some financial wellness.”

Flood of applications

The Johnson Financial Group is firmly entrenched in southeastern Wisconsin with the largest market share. It has branches in Kenosha and Racine.

It helped 450 businesses to obtain more than $150 in million in PPP funding.

A flood of applications poured into Johnson Bank. said Karla Krehbiel, president-Southeast Region.

She estimated that bank employees processed some 2,100 applications within a short time. Electronic requests from customers required an expansive team to handle them before the April 16 deadline.

“We knew we’d get a lot of applications,” she said. “Scott Kelly, our chief credit officer, put together a team. We had to go through each application. We worked day and night.

“We wanted to make sure our clients were doing OK.”

Article published in the Kenosha News