The Paycheck Protection Program was vital for small businesses to retain employees in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

MLS Senior Care didn’t have the choice of rolling back operations in the spring. Most of its clients need the help and company that MLS provides, owner Diana Reed said. The $150,000 that the business received through Timberline Bank was vital to keep going and provide care to vulnerable senior citizens.

“We used that money to keep our doors open,” Reed said. “It was amazing. We didn’t have to worry about layoffs, we didn’t have to worry about preparing our workers for the frontline. We were price-gouged so bad. The price of masks doubled and the price of gloves rose 25%.”

Reed was able to apply for the loan online and was surprised by how smooth the process was. The loan allowed her to retain her 80 employees and not interrupt vital services to 200 clients.

MLS Senior Care is just one of dozens of small businesses that leaned on the PPP to keep the lights on during the pandemic’s initial strike. There was a lot unknown about the program when it was rolled out. Similarly, there are a lot of questions about the forgiveness rollout.

The Daily Sentinel spoke with Austin Smith, a business banker with Timberline Bank, about the process of rolling out PPP loans, the impact it had, and what to look for with the forgiveness programs. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

WHAT MISCONCEPTIONS DID YOU SEE REGARDING THE PPP LOAN ROLLOUT?

While not a misconception, the rules and guidelines of this program were ever-changing and dynamic. This was especially true during the initial rollout of the program as there was a big push to get the money into the hands of the small-business owners as soon as possible. For us, one of the most important focuses was to ensure that the PPP application continued to move forward and that we were in communication with the PPP applicants as much as possible.

DO YOU THINK THE PROGRAM WAS SUCCESSFUL?

Absolutely. We’ve heard from many customers regarding the tough cuts they had to make during the crisis. However, all of them expressed that layoffs were the last resort. Fortunately, this program was able to prevent many business owners from having to resort to layoffs to remain in business.

IT HAD TO FEEL GOOD HELPING TO DISTRIBUTE THESE LOANS, RIGHT?

It certainly did. For as many hours as many of our employees were working, the positivity and diligence expressed throughout the entirety of the program was an amazing display of how much they really cared for the folks on the other end of these loans.

At multiple points through the program, meetings were held discussing whether employees wanted to continue, as our management teams realized the toll it was taking. At every point, employees chose to continue moving forward.

WHAT DO BORROWERS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT LOAN FORGIVENESS?

The biggest thing we have continued to express to customers is to reach out. Whether it’s your banker, accountant, financial advisor, or the SBA hotline, there are plenty of resources available and we are all figuring this out together.

WHAT SHOULD THE GENERAL PUBLIC KNOW ABOUT LOAN FORGIVENESS?

The Paycheck Protection Program represented a large piece of the CARES Act and as a result had a large impact on many people’s lives even if they were not direct recipients.

ARE THERE ANY MISCONCEPTIONS AROUND LOAN FORGIVENESS?

While not a misconception, there is a lot of information floating around out there regarding forgiveness. We urge all of those navigating it to utilize trusted resources to provide answers to your questions. Some of these resources should include: the SBA website, the US Treasury website, your CPA, and your banker.

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