June 2020: Federal Delegate’s Report

Emily Hofer

Federal Delegate’s Report

By: Emily Hofer, ICBA National Director & CFO at Merchants State Bank of Freeman

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known by his pen name Lewis Carroll, was an English writer of children’s fiction, notably Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  This book was one of my favorites as a child and is to this day.  It contains a quote, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”  The events of 2020 are shaping up to seem as if they have jumped out of Carroll’s amazing world of word play, logic and fantasy!

2020 has been more nightmare than fairytale with a global health pandemic, drastic economic decline, low commodity prices, social and civic unrest, and murder hornets!?!  The “Interim Final Rule” has become the most oxymoronic phrase of the year.  We have faced daily – and at times hourly – changing banking regulations.  Our human resource policies have been altered and tax-planning strategies will be realigned.  As we struggle to keep our own ships afloat, Community Banks have been charged with rolling out a new SBA lending program in record time, all for the sake of bolstering our Main Streets and Communities that we call home.  

Needless to say, we are not driving this tiger – we are riding it!  And we are traveling down new roads for even the most seasoned bankers among us. Thankfully, none of us has had to travel these new roads alone.  The true value of your membership in ICBA and ICBSD has been highlighted brightly the last few months.  Both associations have worked tirelessly to facilitate weekly calls to update members on the status of COVID and the CARES Act.  ICBA is in daily contact with Congress, Treasury, SBA, and the regulatory agencies.  As resources and answers to all of our questions become available, they are pushing those out to members and posting them.  ICBA is also pressing for meaningful changes to the PPP program to ensure that lenders and borrowers can easily navigate the PPP forgiveness process, asking for a more straightforward application for forgiveness, more flexibility in the timeline, and a presumption of compliance for all loans under $1 million, among many other things.

My request to you as Community Bankers is to answer ICBA’s calls to action when asked to contact Congress, Treasury and our regulators.  There is strength in numbers and we need to make sure our voices are echoing throughout the halls of DC.  If you’ve never used ICBA’s BE HEARD grassroots site, I encourage you to check it out.  It could not be easier to help our collective story be heard.

In closing, I would like to salute all of you, my fellow bankers.  I have seen many “Thank Yous” to essential frontline workers.  These lists always (and rightly) include healthcare providers, emergency services providers, grocery store staff, and truckers, to name a few.  These lists rarely include bankers.  In my opinion, we (Community Bankers) should be included on that list.  Congress and the SBA have leveraged our reputations to roll out PPP, and we have done it – often working all night to serve our communities.  Our staffs have been asked to keep their heads down, to keep the payment system running smoothly and to ensure customers’ access to funds is not interrupted.  All the while, many of them are dealing with loss of childcare, homeschooling, and keeping themselves and families healthy.  We are frontline and we are essential!

We are traveling these new roads together, and Community Banks have done a fantastic job so far.  There will be no “Easy” button for the rest of 2020.  However, with ICBA and ICBSD on your side, we will all get there!  As always, if you have any questions, comments, or stories to share, I can be reached at ehofer@msb-sd.com or 605-660-4790.