Community Financial Institutions – The Backbone of a Nation in Crisis
Buzz Points' Dawn Sprayman shares what community financial institutions mean to her, Buzz Points, and to the nation as a whole, during trying times (and beyond).
Our world, as big and expansive as it is, has been drawn together by a single tiny virus, uniting humanity in anxiety and hardship across the globe. Of course, the struggles vary from country to country, city to city, family to family, and they certainly vary in their severity. Even their opinions of the situation vary widely. But one thing is certain: families have grown closer and communities have grown tighter. The need to support small businesses who, as it turns out, are your next-door neighbors, your principals’ husband, or you yourself, has become a solidifying and strengthening force in communities across the country.
What was once a good idea or a sometimes even a movement to ‘buy local’ where a small percentage of communities tried to adhere to when they could, has become life and death for too many. As we watch in horror, small businesses are shutting down and families are upended. It doesn’t stop there. Employees by the thousands are out of work and suddenly the whole community is feeling the hit. Americans now are awakened to the plight of every neighbor who owns a business or works for a small business that is now closed. Thousands of people have lost their jobs, and while some are holding on, all have job insecurity. And it happened practically overnight.
So many things happened so rapidly, it is hard to comprehend. Schools closed and, in most cases, had to re-organize to online learning in one week. Small businesses closed without notice, businesses started their teams working from home, in many cases without the needed infrastructure. Restaurants were given a small lifeline of take-out and delivery only, but most other businesses just closed, and everything seemed to come to a grinding halt.
But one essential business which also had to close, allowing drive up only, had to create critical and lightning-fast solutions for consumers everywhere: financial institutions, specifically community financial institutions, CFIs.
Local community financial institutions have always been the silent backbone of the community. We know they are where you go for a sponsorship for everything from your high school booster club to your church mission trip. We know their staff is volunteering at practically every event we attend. We see their name on sponsor banners everywhere. But have we really stopped to think about what that means? Probably not most of us.
CFIs invest in their communities not only by donating money to schools, non-profits, and other community causes, but they are invested in lending to the community. They lend to the small businesses when the large banks will not; they lend to the municipalities, the hospitals, and all the critical infrastructure the local economy depends on. They sit on the boards and help drive the advancement of the towns and cities. They know the businesses, the owner’s names, and they lend to the people of the community. Most importantly, the community financial institution keeps their money invested in the community. Community Financial Institutions are critical to keeping the local economy alive.
It may have taken COVID 19 for some to understand the importance of local community financial institutions. Suddenly thousands of people are out of work overnight and hundreds of small businesses are trying desperately to stay afloat, trying to get the ‘ear marked’ money from the government. It is only considering these circumstances that we see it is the community financial institutions stepping up and making that happen, not the big banks. CFIs were the first ones working day and night to create immediate loan assistance programs, mortgage assistance programs, payment plans and other customer assistance plans. They were on the phone calling their customers with words of assurance, even when they themselves feared for what this pandemic would bring to their own families. They implemented the processes to get the PPP loans processed expediently.
They were there for their customers when they needed them. But it isn’t over yet, not even close. While some regions are recovering, others are just now staring into the precipice of mass-outbreak. Still, community financial institutions are here for us. They are still supporting the community just as they always have. They are out in the community serving meals, donating money, leading the efforts, because they are the leaders of the communities in which they live, work and play. This is your community, and this is your community financial institution.
So, what do community financial institutions need to continue to serve their communities? They need you! The COVID 19 crisis has impacted CFIs just as it has the rest of America. To continue to serve communities, rebound in 2021 and beyond, they simply need you to bank with them, take out your next loan with them, and support them as they are supporting you.