“We all have sorrow.” – Bill Withers
Remember 2016 when famous musicians like Glenn Frey and Prince and Bowie and George Michael all passed away? And 2016 didn’t think that was enough musical firepower so it added Leon Russell and Merle Haggard and then it decided to add legends Muhammad Ali and Arnold Palmer for good measure. Remember how we thought 2016 was a year that truly sucked like no other?
Enter the year with a number that represents “normal visual acuity.” Enter 2020 and a year that is the furthest from normal it can possibly be. This year came in like a bully at a small-stakes, friendly, neighborhood poker game – ‘I see your 2016 and I’ll raise you a shut-down economy and death. Nothing has sucked quite like this. Nothing.
“If there is a load you have to bear. That you can’t carry. I’m right up the road. I’ll share your load.”
Many of you that know me or have read on here before know that I am a banker by day – more specifically a commercial lender. As such, I’ve been deemed an “essential critical infrastructure worker.” I have a letter and everything in my car just in case I am pulled over. Arkansas (as of this writing) is one of very few states that does not have a stay-at-home mandate in place yet, so we’ll see if I ever have to actually use this letter, but I have it nonetheless.
With the passage of the recent CARES Act, $349 billion in funding was given to the SBA (Small Business Administration) for the PPP (Payroll Protection Program) loan. That’s a lot of letters and a lot of money. As such, the race was on by banks as we tried to figure out how to process the numerous requests to come on a first come, first serve basis. By the end of last Friday (the first day the program), over $4 billion had been taken, and that did not include any funding to the large banks like Chase or Wells or Citi. The funds will probably disappear quickly, and because of that, Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin recently announced he had bi-partisan support for another $250B to add to the PPP for if and when the 349 runs out.
I spent all day Saturday and all day Sunday in my office at the bank answering phone calls and emails and texts, pouring over applications and documentation, and inputting loan data into SBA’s portal for struggling local businesses. All very boring numbers stuff. It’s not near as important as those doctors, nurses, and first responders on the front line saving lives, but bankers are essentially the front line in helping to keep the economy moving, and for that I’m proud of what all bankers are doing across the country during this time.
“You just call on me brother, when you need a hand. We all need somebody to lean on.”
It’s a trying time right now – physically, mentally, and emotionally. Scam artists are out there taking advantage of a weakened economy and scared people. Families and friends are separated from each other. People are dying and families can’t even lay them to rest under normal burial circumstances. I don’t need to add to this list, but yes, small businesses need someone to lean on right now as well. They’re shutting their doors, laying off workers, and many are at a loss as to whether they ever re-open their business again. These loans are meant as a temporary band aid. Two and a half times your average monthly payroll as a maximum loan amount to hopefully get them through the next 60 days and the worst of this economic nose dive.
So, as best you can, support your local business right now. They need it. We need it as a country. And then let’s stand up and kick 2020’s ass just like we would against any other bully. This bully is a bad one, a bad mo-fo – the worst one most of us have ever seen. I’m tired of hearing the infection and death toll counts, and I’m trying to do my part as best I can – at a safe and reasonable distance confined mostly to my home and my bank office with one thing in mind: Bullies don’t last, and neither will this one.
“But if we are wise, we know that there’s always tomorrow”
It seems very appropriate to feature today’s video during this time, and also given the recent passing of today’s artist – Bill Withers. Even though the song (released in 1972) was his only #1 hit on both the Soul Singles and the Billboard Hot 100, it was 1987 when Bill actually won a Grammy for being the writer of the song. The group Club Nouveau took Bill’s song and turned it into a number one hit again that year on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the dance charts.
The pride of Slab Fork, West Virginia, here is the late Bill Withers and his sweet soulful voice singing “Lean On Me…”
Just call on me, brother when you need a hand.
R.I.P. Bill Withers