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Everything Collapsed — then PPP prevented layoffs for Columbia-Greene Humane Society

Ron Perez was prepared to cut 12 or 14 members of his 25-person staff at the Columbia-Greene Humane Society when he first saw revenue fall due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Hudson nonprofit was forced to close much of the commercial side of its business, which offers boarding, day care and grooming, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo forced most businesses to close on-site operations last month. The commercial side of the operation helps finance other offerings such as low-cost veterinary visits and low-cost spay and neuter services.

“When all this began, everything collapsed. As we were going forward, three-fourths of my staff are dedicated to the vet hospital or the boarding, grooming and daycare. I was faced with laying off staff,” said Perez, the humane society’s president and CEO. “Then the feds came out with this [Paycheck Protection] program. I immediately emailed Perry Lasher at the Bank of Greene County.”

Perez called Lasher at 8 p.m. that night to discuss options.

The bank had recently provided a loan to the Columbia-Greene Humane Society as it expanded its shelter. Perez asked if they could defer the mortgage for the new shelter, and the application was submitted within 12 hours.

Next step was to apply for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, which Perez said was difficult.

The federal program is offering companies and nonprofits with fewer than 500 workers a 1% interest loan to cover two months of payroll and other expenses. Borrowers that use the money for payroll costs, mortgage interest, rent and utilities payments are able to apply for loan forgiveness.

Perez said the application process was confusing at first, but Lasher and the bank walked him through the process.

The Columbia-Greene Humane Society was approved for a $152,000 PPP loan. It means the nonprofit will not need to do any layoffs.

“They let me know when the application was there, sent it to me, we applied and it was done,” Perez said. “It kept me from laying off the majority of my staff.”

The Bank of Greene County said it processed 522 loans worth $61.9 million in the first round of the PPP. Those loans are expected to preserve 6,680 jobs.

To be able to provide those loans, CEO Donald Gibson said the bank had to be approved as an SBA lender hours before the first applications opened.

“We were going to go with [Pursuit], we were planning on using them and always use them for SBA deals. They hit the brakes and weren’t sure if they would do the program. We went into overdrive and said we have to get these for our customers,” Gibson said.

Banks were able to start submitting loan application to the SBA at 9 a.m. on Friday, April 3. The Bank of Greene County was approved to start submitting at 11:30 a.m. that Saturday. It started approving loans first thing Monday, April 6.

Lasher said the Columbia-Greene Humane Society’s application was one of the first loans processed.

The $349 billion federal program ran out of money last week. It’s expected to get more funding soon, which would reopen the application for more businesses to apply. The Bank of Greene County said it’s continuing to accept applications from customers and non-customers.

Perez said the silver lining during this shutdown has been that dog and cat adoptions are up with more people at home. He recommends other companies that need this money work with their banks as soon as possible.

“The Bank of Greene County took a leadership role on helping people and small businesses navigate this,” Perez said. “Establish a contact at a bank now and hopefully it’s a community bank. Establish a contact now and be prepared.”

Chelsea Diana
Reporter
Albany Business Review
Apr 21, 2020, 6:00am EDT

Columbia-Greene Humane Society president and CEO, Ron Perez, with his dog, Captain Quint.

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