PPP 2020

On March 27, 2020, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was signed into law as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). An original allotment of $349 billion was included to support small businesses through Small Business Administration (SBA) loans. Even before it was officially launched, information was coming out at a furious pace. And Mascoma Bank was ready—or at least as ready as possible.


“In normal times, when we process an SBA loan, everyone knows the process,” said Ken Howe, Chief Commercial Banking Officer. “This program essentially came out overnight and every day there was some change, some update, and everyone just kept rolling with it.”

When the PPP program was announced, it was immediately clear this would be a wild ride and people would need the Bank’s help. At the beginning, the widely held expectation was there would not be enough money for everyone who requested it, so moving quickly and acting correctly would be paramount.

Our goal was to help keep our business community afloat. Mascoma lenders parsed the information as it came out and raced to analyze and share the most important pieces with area businesses and nonprofits.

1,493 Businesses received loans through Mascoma Bank in the first round of PPP.

As soon as it was possible to take applications, Mascoma Bank was ready. At first, documents were submitted on paper through the branch drive-ups. The Mascoma team quickly entered all the information so applications could be shared electronically and remotely with the credit team. These Mascoma teams were constantly optimizing workflow through a dozen or more iterations. One whole team was put in place just to help customers find and fix errors in their applications, while another offered full-time support to answer customer questions.

Working around the clock, the Mascoma Bank IT department built an online application process and gave us the ability to upload documents to the SBA for approval every 20 minutes. The Bank enabled HelloSign electronic document signing, and that crucial remote signing capability helped Mascoma fund loans within 10 days of approval.

All of this allowed the Mascoma team to work remotely, be safe, and still complete all the lending activities that were critical to making this process a success.

“This was absolutely a bank-wide effort. The commercial team ran point, but this took everyone to make it work,” said Ken Howe. “As I’ve said to all employee numerous times, if you didn’t play a direct part in this, you likely covered for someone so they could.”

14,890 Jobs were directly supported by PPP funds.

The entire commercial services team was involved, and almost all departments lent additional personnel, including marketing, branch staff, private banking, retail lending, loan servicing, finance, and residential lending. Through it all, the full bank communications infrastructure kept both our customers and the staff up to speed.

The branch staff were fielding questions, taking paper applications, and entering information electronically. Then, the money needed to be deposited directly to save the time of drafting cashier’s checks, stay COVID-safe, and prevent fraud. In many cases, the branch staff had to set up new accounts and complete all the due diligence to make sure those new accounts were secure. The call center team was constantly fielding calls—from basic support to triaging more complex questions—and hunting down answers. Loan servicing played a critical role in booking the loans and dispersing payments.

At the same time, our risk management team audited the loans to ensure we were doing everything right. If any questions came up, they could help resolve them. Anywhere from 125 to 150 Mascoma Bank team members directly impacted the program in the first round of PPP.

125+ Mascoma Bank staff worked directly on the PPP program.

“The support we received from leadership and the Board was critical,” said Ken Howe. “We felt like every bank in the country was going to be scrambling to make sure their customers were not left out. To be as efficient as possible, we needed to make some small changes to our loan policy. The Executive Committee recognized the urgency of the situation and approved emergency changes. Those changes essentially meant any PPP loan that’s approved under the loan program by the SBA is considered to be automatically approved by the Bank. This significantly and critically streamlined our process—without it, we would not have been able to support anywhere near as many businesses.”

People literally worked nights and weekends. “I got a call and it’s from someone in our department saying, ‘Ken, I’m getting shut out of our system at midnight.’ So, we fixed that, and I’d wake up at 1 in the morning, check my computer and find people processing loans,” said Howe. “Still, it’s great to have 2020 in the rearview mirror. I couldn’t be prouder of everyone at the Bank who made our response to PPP so successful and allowed us to help so many clients.”