Bank ready to repeat aid program

A Western Slope bank that received widespread attention in 1995 for helping federal employees hit then by a government shutdown stood ready Friday to do it again if the 2011 budget standoff wasn’t resolved.

Alpine Bank made plans this week to offer bridge loans to cover the missing paycheck of any worker affected by a shutdown, said Tom Kenning, the bank’s regional president of retail operations.

Kenning said the bank planned to offer the loans interest-free, as he believes it did in 1995, with employees paying back the money once the shutdown ended and they received retroactive pay.

“If we do get a government shutdown, yeah, we’re definitely going to be there for people who suffer through that,” Kenning said late Friday afternoon.

“I think it’s best for everybody if we don’t have to do it, but if it happens, we’ve done it before, and we’re prepared to do it again,” he said.

Congress later that night struck a deal that appears to put the issue to rest for the remainder of the fiscal year.

Kenning said he was working at a small, independent bank in Telluride in 1995 and remembers as a competitor the media coverage the loan program brought to Alpine Bank.

“I do remember watching it on TV and seeing Alpine Bank and thinking, ‘Wow, that’s pretty good exposure,’ ” he said.

Alpine Bank helped perhaps a few hundred federal employees in 1995 but was a lot smaller then, Kenning said.

It now has 38 locations, including places such as Montrose and Durango, where there are a significant number of federal employees, he said.

In 1995, the bank not only was able to assist existing customers, but it got some new ones as a result of its program, Kenning said.

It again was planning to offer the loans not only to customers but any affected employee bringing in a federal pay stub.


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