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Carlsbad banks handle PPP loans.

By Teri Burns

Carlsbad has taken a hard economic hit of late with both the coronavirus shut down and the drop in oil prices. Both residents and businesses are struggling with the economic downturn, and Carlsbad banks want their customers to know they are here for them. Many area small businesses that were ordered closed in March due to the coronavirus outbreak have been seriously impacted by the loss of revenue and are turning to federal relief aid to take care of employees and stay afloat. Local banks stepped in to provide millions of dollars in Payroll Protection Program loans to Eddy County businesses, in addition to working with individual customers on their financial needs.They are now waiting on the second round of funding for the PPP loans to continue helping their customers. Western Commerce Bank funded $51 million in PPP loans across their branches in Carlsbad, Loving, Lovington, Hobbs, Tatum and Albuquerque.Jason Wyatt, President of WCB as well as the New Mexico Bankers Association, said banks across the state were overwhelmed with applications for federal assistance. “We are grateful to have the opportunity to help our customers,” he said of the loans. “It really is a big deal, and we want to do as many of these loans as we can to help the community.” He added the loans are very much a community service. “The banks are not really making much of a profit on these,” he said. “In fact, it’s not much above break even. “Thank God there’s a round two,” he said of the funding, adding, “It’s badly needed and helping people get through this unprecedented time. “The economy needs to open as soon as possible. I’m hoping people have common sense and open sooner rather than later,” he said. Wyatt said complete loan applications that were not processed during the first round of funding would be first in line for the second round. In addition to PPP loans, WCB is also looking for ways to help individual customers, making case-by-case judgement calls on lowering interest rates or deferring payments. “We are doing everything possible to help all of our customers because this isn’t anyone’s fault,” he said. Only the National Parks Highway branch is completely open at this time due to the post office located inside. Other branches are open by appointment and for drive-through customers only.“Everything that can be done through the drive-through, we’re trying to do that way,” Wyatt said. He added, the bank remains at full staff working regular hours, especially in light of the PPP loan applications to be processed. “We needed all hands on deck,” he said. CNB Bank funded more than $21 million in PPP loans during the first round of funding, according to Jay Jenkins, President and CEO. The average loan was $200,000 going directly to small businesses in Eddy County, he added.“We’re proud to be one of the local banks that participated,” he said of the loan program. “We’re looking forward to a second round of funding, and we absolutely desperately need it.”Now, he said, it’s only a matter of when the banks will see the funding and what changes might be made to the program to tighten up the rules. He said the second round would include funds earmarked specifically for smaller banks to help ensure that small businesses get the funding they need.“We have about 20 applications that are ready to go but didn’t get processed during the last round of funding, so we will start with those,” he said of the loans. They will work with other applicants to get their applications completed and processed, as well, he added.He said CNB is also looking at individual customer needs, small business and otherwise, to see how best to help each.“As a community bank, we can typically craft a scenario that will help our customers,” he said.“We’re going to help our customers to the extent that we can.”CNB is really about serving the community, Jenkins said, adding they try hard to stick to their roots as a community-minded organization. To that end, most of the bank’s officers are involved in community organizations, including Kelby Hensley, SVP of Trust Operations, who is a board member for United Way. She brought in a request the bank honored by donating $10,000 to the United Way’s community activities.Bank employees also purchased gift cards recently from small businesses in Carlsbad—especially restaurants—and they will deliver those to small business customers and others throughout the community, including first responders.Additionally, the bank is moving forward with the multi-million-dollar expansion to a new branch on National Parks Highway. “We’re not letting a temporary situation deter us from our future plans,” he said, adding, “We’re using a local contractor, so hopefully, those funds will flow back into the community.”CNB will be moving out of its Wal-Mart location once the new full-service branch is open on the south side of Carlsbad.In speaking of the business shutdown and drop in oil prices, Jenkins said, “It’s very concerning, but we’ve been through lots of ups and downs in the economy, and here we go again, but we will make it.”The Wal-Mart branch of CNB is currently closed, but the drive-through at the downtown branch is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays to accommodate that traffic. Both the main branch downtown and the north side branch are closed except by appointment and inthe drive-through.The bank switched employees to an alternating schedule to serve customers primarily through the drive-through, but Jenkins noted all of his employees continue to be paid. “The safety of our employees and the safety of our customers is number one,” he said of the decision to close their lobbies. “We want to make sure that is at the forefront of all that we do.”According to Marjo Pace, Division President of First American Bank in Carlsbad, the bank funded more than $130 million in PPP loans across its branches in Carlsbad, Artesia, Roswell, Albuquerque and Las Cruces.“In Carlsbad, we definitely had a pretty good impact on the community,” she said of the loans.Pace said First American was able to fund so many loans because they centralized the process with a team of 10 employees entering applications and processing closing documents. Funding takes place the same day. She said many of the loans funded were for customers new to First American. “If they were within our community, we were definitely out there helping them,” she said.As with the other banks in town, First American plans to start round two of funding by processing loans that were not processed during the first round.The bank’s lobby is also closed, with transactions handled by appointment and through the drive-through. “We reached out to the majority of our customers by phone to let them know that we were closed, but that we’re here for them.”Being there for customers has included helping with loan payment deferrals if needed.“In good times we’re with them and in trying times, we partner with them all the way,” she said.All three banks look forward to serving the community with the second round of federal relief aid, and are preparing to start processing loan applications as soon as the funding is available.

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