The federal government’s $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package includes a lifeline to small businesses: a $349 billion loan program to help pay employees' salaries during the pandemic. Oklahoma banks are taking advantage of the Paycheck Protection Program, administered by the Small Business Administration, to help get that money to businesses and employees across the state.
"It’s vitally important for the state and for every community we serve, and we’re in a lot of small communities," said Kevin Guarnera, Oklahoma City market president for Enid-based Stride Bank. "A lot of these businesses are the lifeline for those communities."
Guarnera said in 40 years in the banking industry, he's never seen anything like the economic response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
"We hit the ground running. We've worked around the clock," he said, adding that he and other employees spent the weekend helping businesses get loans through the program.
According to Guarnera, as of Tuesday Stride Bank has approved 145 loans, totaling about $40 million. He says those loans are expected to support 4,200 jobs, 85% of which are in Oklahoma.
It remains unclear how many loans will be approved for Oklahoma businesses and what their final dollar amount will total. The Tulsa World reported on Monday that First Oklahoma Bank has so far accounted for $80 million in loans, and Blue Sky Bank processed $17 million.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said in a statement on Tuesday that he hopes to work with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to increase funding for the small business loan program when the Senate next convenes on Thursday.