When the nation’s Small Business Administration (SBA) launched the Paycheck Protection Program in early April, we at Johnson Financial Group were ready – and more than willing – to help our business clients and communities obtain these forgivable loans so vital to their efforts to sustain their business through the COVID-19 pandemic.

In late March, as Congress approved the CARES Act, the $2 trillion aid package in response to the pandemic’s impact, Johnson Financial Group mobilized a team of 100 professionals to create a process specifically for PPP applications. Under the program, businesses with up to 500 employees can obtain forgivable loans from participating banks and lenders to cover payroll and benefits for up to eight weeks. Loans awarded in the PPP’s first round totaled approximately $350 billion and funds were exhausted within two weeks; an additional $320 billion became available in the PPP’s second round.

“The primary purpose of the program was to provide cash to keep people employed and insured,” said Jim Popp, president and CEO of Johnson Financial Group. “This program was challenging. Our industry worked day and night during the application process to understand the ever-changing rules and procedures under the SBA.”

The Johnson Financial Group team built a process to accept, underwrite, receive approval and document each application within one week, adjusting to changing rules along the way. For example, although the SBA released a draft application so business owners could gather documents and other required material in advance, the application was revised just before the launch date, meaning business owners and lenders alike had to scramble to adjust in time.

Despite those hurdles, Johnson Financial Group associates throughout the firm’s Wisconsin, Arizona and Minnesota locations were able to submit more than 2000 applications covering both rounds through early May, showing an approval rate of about 98 percent so far.

The businesses that applied were diverse in size, value and structure as well as in the amounts to be borrowed. The Johnson Financial Group team worked with many types of businesses and organizations, from independent contractors to businesses with 400 employees, seeking loans that ranged from $3,000 to $10 million.

Many of the businesses that obtained loans through Johnson Financial Group are family owned, a particularly touching aspect as the firm celebrates 50 years as a family-owned business enterprise in 2020.

Business owners were well aware of the nationwide rush to obtain funding, and many reached out afterward to express their thanks for help with their applications.

“Reports are widespread that small businesses were shut out because "the banks" were not interested in them and unwilling to process their applications,” wrote the owner of a Janesville remodeling firm. “My personal experience as a small business with three employees could not be farther from those reports. I had to place only one phone call to JFG.”

“From then on you initiated all contacts and requests for information. This even included you reaching out to me on a Saturday. Getting my application approved and funded could not have been easier.” He ended by identifying himself as a “Johnson Bank customer for life.”

“We were able to help thousands of small business owners get loans and working capital, and we are just a microcosm of what’s happening nationwide” said Popp. “The impact has been significant.”

Many owners were concerned for their employees’ financial well-being, in addition to worrying about the future of their business.

“It means the world to me and my staff to know that in these uncertain times, our payroll is safe,” said one owner. “My staff largely work paycheck to paycheck and the stress of affording rent, etc. being taken off their shoulders regardless of what happens in the near distant future is frankly a game changer for them… By helping me navigate ‘the system,’ I wanted to again let you (JFG) know that there are a good dozen people/families sleeping much easier tonight.”

Said Popp: “Most recipients are extremely grateful and relieved these additional funds are available to bridge the gap between now and normalcy.” He noted that with many businesses experiencing revenue decreases of 30 to 40 percent or more, the PPP money allows them to keep staff and services going.

“I know you guys have been overwhelmed by the PPP avalanche,” said a principal of a Milwaukee marketing and communications firm. “And I want to let you know how much we appreciate the attention that you and Johnson Financial gave us. I know we are small compared to most, but to us, preserving our firm is of highest importance to the families it supports.”

“Johnson Financial was very helpful in obtaining the PPP loan. Their proactive response demonstrates their commitment to supporting family owned business like ours,” said a Wisconsin grocer.

Said Popp, “We couldn’t be more proud at this time about helping family owned businesses get through this challenging time and help them build for their future.”

Unlike some banks and lenders who accepted PPP applications only from existing loan clients, Johnson Financial Group accepted applications from any of the firm’s qualifying clients, including those with banking, insurance or wealth relationships. The overall message is simple and clear: your business is our priority. As the nation navigates through the COVID-19 pandemic and its unprecedented consequences, Johnson Financial Group bankers and advisors have the knowledge, expertise and commitment to do what’s right for you and your business.

To learn more about Johnson Financial Group, connect with an advisor or visit:
johnsonfinancialgroup.com

Products and services offered by these Johnson Financial Group Companies: Johnson Bank, Johnson Insurance Services, LLC, and Johnson Wealth Inc.