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Oxford, Massachusetts — bankHometown has approved over 400 Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans totaling more than $51 million, allowing hundreds of local businesses across central Massachusetts and northeastern Connecticut to keep more than 6,000 employees on the payroll.

The program has helped small businesses like bankHometown customer Wormtown Brewery recall its full-time employees who were furloughed when the company’s Worcester and Patriot Place, Foxboro, locations closed last month.

“The majority of our business came from bars, restaurants, and our taprooms,” said David Fields, Wormtown’s managing partner. “On March 17, one hundred percent of that part of our business ceased to exist.”

With funding from the PPP through bankHometown, Fields said the company can fully fund their payroll for the next eight weeks and meet its rent and other obligations, while increasing the employer contribution toward health care coverage to cover the full cost, allowing employees to keep more of their pay.

“The program was designed to protect people’s jobs and wages while maintaining their connectivity to the workplace, and it did exactly what it was meant to do,” Fields said. “For the next eight weeks, it saved those jobs and those paychecks.”

The Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is a small business stimulus program included in the federal government’s recently enacted $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.  The PPP provided an initial $349 billion for SBA lenders like bankHometown to fund loans to businesses on a first-come, first served basis in order to guarantee eight weeks of payroll and other costs to help businesses remain viable. Funds were exhausted in less than two weeks, but Congress is expected to provide an additional funding capacity though the timing is uncertain. To qualify, businesses must have 500 or fewer employees and demonstrate that they have been negatively affected by the Coronavirus. If used for payroll and other qualifying expenses, the loans are forgivable.

The program also helped bankHometown customer Accord Adult Day Center provide full-time pay to all 38 of its furloughed nurses, activities directors, CNAs, and other employees who worked at its Webster and Wareham facilities. Executive Director and Owner Joseph Rizzo said that with no revenue coming in, the pandemic has been “devastating” for his business.

“Without the PPP funding, we would have been in trouble by the end of June,” he said. “Now at least during this short window, we can keep moving forward and sustain ourselves a little further out.”

Rizzo called the PPP funding he received through bankHometown a “lifeline that has made a big difference” to his business, his staff, and his clients who come from communities across south central Massachusetts and northeastern Connecticut and who are elderly or living with disabilities. In addition to funding full pay for all of Accord’s employees through June, Rizzo said the PPP has already allowed him to welcome back a small group of staff to work on a rotating basis to provide services to clients using a remote services model. 

“With telehealth services, we’re able to check in on our clients and find out if they’re at risk in their homes, whether they need anything medically or need food, and know they’re able to interact with people,” Rizzo said. “It’s modified services without the brick-and-mortar, but without the PPP funds, we would not have been in a position to offer any of it.”

Rizzo also said his staff has created opportunities for clients, who he said are like family, to reintegrate with the facility and reconnect with staff—even leveraging the organization’s social media pages

“We’re offering ‘take-out activities’ where we post a demonstration on our Facebook page and have them drive to our facility to pick up a baggie with the activity all put together,” Rizzo said. “Our clients think it’s awesome. They like the connection so we’re trying to build and sustain it while they can’t be here.”

bankHometown’s commercial lending teams worked tirelessly to submit applications on behalf of hundreds of its small business customers like Wormtown and Accord, knowing that for many business owners, timing was critical. “These are trying times, and we understand the financial situation our customers are facing and the negative impact it can have on their business, the staff, and the community,” said bankHometown President and CEO Robert J. Morton. “We’ve moved quickly to get these funds in our customers’ hands so they can meet all of their obligations. As a community bank, this is what we do and I’m proud of our ability to help local organizations like Wormtown and Accord,” he said.

Rizzo said his long-standing relationship with bankHometown commercial loan officers Todd Donohoe and Michael Mahlert made the application process very easy, noting that bankHometown was able to provide funding in a matter of days. “We’re a big supporter of bankHometown and they’re a big supporter of us,” Rizzo said. “They understand us, and what our business and our people need is important to them. That’s why I value our community banking relationship.”

“It was remarkably easy to work with bankHometown on the PPP,” Fields added. “Their communication at all levels was incredibly proactive and their responsiveness was just as high.”

Fields also noted that program funding better positions Wormtown for when normal operations resume, stating that the company will be better prepared to drive its business forward through continued innovation, promotional programs, and additional employees—something that would have been impossible without PPP funding to bridge the gap. However, he and Rizzo both agree that the business environment post-COVID-19 is uncertain and are preparing their companies for a potential longer-term impact.

“When will people be comfortable resuming normal activities and returning to crowded bars and restaurants? We just don’t have a handle on that yet,” Fields said, noting that businesses may need to continue making accommodations to keep patrons socially distanced for some time. “For now, at least we can continue making great beer for central Massachusetts, while preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.”

“Our clients are high risk, so people will need assurance that’s it’s OK and that it’s safe to come back, even if things open up in June.” Rizzo said, adding that he expected to be at a lower capacity for some time. “But I can only control what I can control, and the PPP allowed me to retain control at least for a short period of time.”

In the Photos:

bankHometown President and CEO Robert J. Morton with Wormtown Brewery Managing Partner David Fields.

bankHometown Assistant Vice President and Commercial Loan Officer Todd Donohoe with Accord Adult Day Center Executive Director and Owner Joseph Rizzo.

About bankHometown

Founded in 1889, bankHometown is headquartered in Oxford, Massachusetts, and has $1.0 billion in assets and 15 branches located throughout central Massachusetts and northeastern Connecticut. Through its sponsorship and charitable giving program, bankHometown and the Hometown Bank Community Foundation support non-profit organizations and causes throughout Worcester and Windham Counties. In 2019, the bank and foundation donated more than $368,000 to nearly 270 organizations. Over the last four years, the program has donated more than $1.1 million. For more information, visit bankhometown.com. 

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