Myerstown Vitality Partnership (MVP) has entered into an agreement with Customers Bank to create a streamlined application process for local businesses to apply for the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans.

It enables area businesses to open their browser to a landing page that will serve as a platform to guide them through the application, and they are not required to have a banking relationship with Customers Bank.

“We wanted to find a way to better provide PPP loans to small businesses. There are a lot of small ‘mom and pop’ businesses and entrepreneurs that were not able to take advantage of the first two rounds of PPP last spring and summer,” explained Jack Gombach, MVP CEO.

“Now, more than ever, we need to think more creatively about how we navigate the COVID-19 recovery. By working with Customers Bank, we are able to leverage their expertise to better support entrepreneurs and small business owners.”

Customers Bank is a full-service $18.8 billion super-community bank with offices from Boston to Washington, D.C. It’s headquartered in Phoenixville with executive offices in West Reading. Miguel Alban, senior vice president and director of Multicultural Banking of Customers Bank’s Multicultural Banking Group, said the bank is a preferred SBA lender and is “very strong in small and commercial business” services and loans. He said the bank was ranked #5 in the US for PPP loans — originating about 100,000 in PPP loans totaling nearly $5 billion during the first and second rounds of the program.

“We want to help as many small businesses and entrepreneurs as we can, even if they’re not our customers,” he stressed.

PPP was launched last year as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The first rounds of funding provided $669 billion in relief to small businesses nationwide. The current round of PPP is funded through the $284 billion, bipartisan coronavirus relief bill signed into law last month. Applications are being accepted through March 31.

Read More: Local lenders, businesses tap into SBA Paycheck Protection Program loans

Alban said this time the SBA has set aside funds to assist minority business owners and the uses for loan funds have also expanded. They now include the cost of software to allow employees to work from home; accommodations for health-related issues such as COVID-19, which could include air filters and PPE (personal protective equipment) for employees; as well as costs related to property damage resulting from public disturbances that occurred during 2020 and which are not covered by insurance.

“This round of PPP should go much smoother. By now business owners understand that it is a process, and banks have more experience in processing loan applications,” he said.

Read More: SBA data shows nearly 1,400 Lebanon County businesses received PPP loans

He said last year Customers Bank partnered collaborated with several fintech (financial technology) companies to create a hybrid model to automate the PPP application process. “This year because so many small business owners and minority business owners were left out of the PPP program, we worked with SmartBiz Loans to provide a program for other organizations and financial entities to streamline the PPP application process,” he said.

Businesses may visit the Customers Bank website to submit their application or they may use MVP’s landing page. “The landing pages have the organization’s logo [MVP] as well as ours and SmartBiz. It creates trust in the platform, and that’s important since there were some scams during the first rounds of PPP,” Alban explained.

From the opening page, the platform uses prompts and questions to guide business owners through the application. “Everything is online, but there is support in the portal for a business owner who might have questions,” Alban said.

“This partnership will ensure funding effectively gets into the hands of small business owners and makes a true impact. We are excited to support Myerstown and their revitalization efforts,” said Timothy Romig, Customers Bank market president for Pennsylvania & New Jersey.

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Rochelle A. Shenk is a writer with over two decades experience. Her work appears in regional business publications and lifestyle magazines as well as area newspapers. She writes about business and municipal sectors as well as arts and entertainment, human interest features, and travel and tourism. Rochelle...