With most businesses struggling this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bank of Bartlett serves as a lifeline for more than 1,500 businesses and 10,600 employees.

The local financial institution is assisting with the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The PPP is part of the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. It helps some facing unemployment over the past five months as coronavirus problems upend how businesses traditionally operate.

During the first round of funding, the PPP authorized up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses to pay employees during the crisis. A second round of funding totaling $310 billion was approved with stricter conditions. Those funds were exhausted by Aug. 8.

The initial funding covered expenses for eight weeks. This was expanded to 24 weeks at the end of May. At least 60% of the money must fund payroll and employee benefits. The remaining 40% can be spent on mortgage interest payments, rent or lease payments, or utilities. If the guidelines are met, businesses or individuals can have 100% of the loan forgiven.

So far, restaurants and hotels are among the hardest hit.

LOCAL BUSINESSES AFFECTED

One local business receiving help from the program is family-owned Hicks Convention Services. Their business, which started in 1986, came to a halt in March when trade shows, weddings, and other events were canceled due to the pandemic.

“Normally by this time of year, we would’ve probably already done 250 to 300 trade shows,” said Billy Hicks, president and CEO. “At the current time, we’ve done six. In a matter of about 72 hours, we had more than $3 million in trade shows and special events cancel.”

The company received $300,000 in PPP funds. This allows it to keep many employees, some who have more than 25 years of work experience for Hicks.

Despite receiving the money, with a payroll of $70,000 every two weeks, Hicks’ funding ran out quickly, and they were forced to reduce staff from 55 employees to just 20. Right now, Hicks is assisting Shelby County Schools with its technology giveaways for students, with 40 air-conditioned drive-through tents at five locations, and a sixth location added this week.

Please check out the full article from the Daily Memphian.

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