PPP lending leader

KRISTI HINE / TRUE DAKOTAN 

Shown in his office at the Wessington Springs branch of American Bank & Trust (AB&T) is market president Blake Willman. While other banks across the region and nation had difficulties rolling out the federal Payroll Protection Program (PPP), Willman, along with staff at the local branch and across the AB&T network were able to help local businesses navigate and obtain funding quickly through the PPP. 

On March 27, 2020 President Trump and Congress enacted legislation that created a $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for small businesses thrown into a tailspin by the coronavirus. The premise of the program relied on banks to get the money flowing quickly to their customers. Opening  to receive applications on April 3, the roll-out was not without its challenges.  Because of the incredible demand for these loans, the speed in which the program came about, guidance that was continually being developed, and banks not being prepared, the program was not a smooth process for most.  

Many small businesses in the area, however, didn’t face those problems — in fact, they looked to their hometown bank as a beacon of light amid the darkness of uncertainty. 

“Right from the start, as soon as we heard about the program, we tracked it through Congress, had conference calls with all the lenders and basically knew that this was something we had to get rolled out,” said Blake Willman, market president for the American Bank & Trust Wessington Springs branch.  “We knew how much of a help it was going to be for our communities.”

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