Pub. 2 2020 | Issue 10


From The President/CEO’s Desk

By Kevin L. Shivers, CAE

Congress must put aside partisan bickering and
fix the Paycheck Protection Program


All of us can remember what we were doing on Sept. 11, 2001. Nineteen years ago, I was working for Gov. Tom Ridge as a deputy press secretary. A WGAL-TV reporter called seeking comment from the governor about a terror attack in New York City. I recall turning on the television and watching the second plane crash into the World Trade Center tower.

A few hours later, I remember evacuating our state Capitol to set up a temporary office at the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA). And I remember leaving the facility that evening with the sky being eerily devoid of aircraft for the first time in my life.

I also remember Republicans and Democrats in Congress standing together to show the world the United States was united in this crisis, resolved to rebuild, and determined to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Many of those memories from 9/11 came rushing back during the early days of the pandemic. I was impressed by how quickly community bankers across the state, and their trade associations, like the Pennsylvania Association of Community Bankers (PACB), communicated regularly and rapidly with federal and state regulators to ensure the safety and soundness of the financial system and bank employees.

The rapid response by Congress and the administration to inject trillions into the national economy to protect against a total collapse reminded me of the swift action by Congress to secure our homeland and support our troops who were working to bring the terrorists to justice. I was also very proud of community banks’ responses, which were called to deliver critical relief to small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Those funds helped many small businesses to continue to pay their employees during the initial COVID-19 shutdown.
Nineteen years ago, Americans returned to work and their lives not long after the planes crashed into the buildings in New York City and Washington, DC and the Pennsylvania farm field.

Six months after the Coronavirus pandemic started in this country, many of our fellow citizens can’t yet return to work. They remain unemployed and their workplaces shuttered. They are the unexpected victims of the economic injury caused by Coronavirus, and so too are their employers — most small-business owners who serve as the economic lifeblood of all Main Street.

As Congress gets back to work, it must quickly shift its focus to the small businesses and their employees whose fates hang in the balance of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The overly complicated process for PPP forgiveness has many small businesses wondering what to do next. Members of both political parties have expressed support for simplifying PPP forgiveness for loans under $150,000 so borrowers can focus on their businesses’ survival.

Pennsylvania’s community banks and their small business customers applauded Congress’s swift response at the outset of the current economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. But we need our allies in Congress to put aside their partisan differences to enact these meaningful changes — to get small businesses back to work without the cloud of PPP forgiveness hanging over them.

Last month, PACB’s board of directors authorized a letter to Congressional leaders, urging the immediate consideration of stand-alone legislation to forgive Paycheck Protection Loans of $150,000 or less.

In the letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signed by all of the PACB board of directors, the community bankers urged lawmakers to take up the PACB-supported Paycheck Protection Small Business Forgiveness Act (S4117 and HR 777). That letter was sent to every member of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation.

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I also signed a similar letter recently and was joined by the presidents of 44 other community banking associations and business trade groups on behalf of the stand-alone forgiveness bill.

This broadly supported, bipartisan and bicameral legislation would create a presumption of compliance for obtaining forgiveness for Paycheck Protection Program loans with an original balance of $150,000 or less. The bills have been introduced in the Senate (S. 4117) by Senators Kevin Cramer and Robert Menendez and have 30 co-sponsors. The House companion bill (H.R. 7777), introduced by Representatives Chrissy Houlahan, Pennsylvania, and Fred Upton, has 70 co-sponsors.

Perhaps the reflections of the sacrifices made by our fellow Americans 19 years ago can be the catalyst that Congress needs now to muster the same bipartisan spirit to fix the Paycheck Protection Program for American workers and small businesses alike.

Otherwise, I am concerned complexity, lack of guidance, and uncertainty surrounding Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness could undermine the effectiveness of future rounds of the PPP program.

Kevin L. Shivers, CAE
President and CEO
Pennsylvania Association of Community Bankers


Kevin Shivers is President/CEO of Pennsylvania Association of Community Bankers

This story appears in Issue 10 2020 of the Hometown Banker Magazine.

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