Where Credit’s Due
Community banks step in to serve families and small businesses rattled by an unprecedented challenge.
by Bill Donahue

The statewide lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has left some members of local communities in dire straits: families on a fixed budget needing access to funds for groceries and other essentials; businesses with little to no revenue coming in, while their owners struggle to make payroll; and nonprofit organizations faced with the sudden realization that their primary sources of funding for essential programs have dried up. 
In every case, locally rooted community banks have responded with nimbleness and creativity. 
“The past few months have shown how flexible we can be,” says Patricia A. Husic, president and CEO of Centric Bank and Centric Financial Corp., which is headquartered in Harrisburg and has branch locations in Devon and Doylestown. “We’ve ensured that our team stays healthy, so they can keep the community healthy. … Through all this, our people have been helping [members of the community] see that they still can conduct business as usual.” 
Some examples of the many ways in which community banks have stepped in to ease the pain, fear, and anxiety associated with COVID-19:

* Banking institutions such as Centric Bank, C&N, and Mid Penn Bank have moved figurative mountains to help small businesses through the SBA Paycheck Protection Program established by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Essential staff members of these institutions offered creative solutions and worked incredibly long hours to help thousands of small-business owners—customers and non-customers alike—secure PPP loans, cumulatively amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars. In other words, these efforts have not only helped keep businesses afloat but also preserved jobs for tens of thousands of local workers.   

* Even though the lobbies of bank branches may be closed, community banks have enabled customers to continue making deposits and accessing their funds through increasingly robust online banking technology, as well as through drive-up windows, night deposits, or other means beyond “normal” business operations. Some banks have offered by-appointment meetings in otherwise closed-to-the-public branch lobbies, which have been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized to protect the health and wellness of employees and customers alike. 

* Penn Community Bank partnered with United Way of Bucks County to create the COVID-19 Recovery Fund early into the crisis. Their shared goal: to support members of the ALICE (asset-limited, income-restrained, employed) population in Bucks County whose lives have been affected by the virus outbreak. The program enables local nonprofit organizations devoted to serving underserved members of the community, such as low-income seniors who are unable to leave home, to apply for grants designed to help sustain their operations. Penn Community Bank and United Way of Bucks County each seeded the fund with $25,000, and additional donations have come from generous individuals and other local organizations, including Dow, Janssen, and PECO. 

* A number of banks have offered flexibility on personal and business loans. For a family whose sole breadwinner no longer has a job or a small business that has lost its primary revenue stream due to the lockdown, a 90-day loan deferment on payment of the principal amount, interest, or both can go a long way toward easing people’s pain.

* Some banks have created funds exclusively devoted to helping customers make ends meet throughout the crisis. On March 11, early into the crisis, Bryn Mawr Trust started the COVID-19 Financial Assistance Program. The program enabled individuals and small-business owners with short-term relief via access to emergency funds to help deal with the financial stress resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak. 

“We wanted to provide a very easy, fast process to get anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 into people’s pockets, and we’ve gotten this done in hours rather than weeks,” says Frank Leto, CEO of Bryn Mawr Trust and Bryn Mawr Bank Corp., based in Bryn Mawr. “Community banks are called community banks for a reason. This is the time to step up as banks and show we are gathering around together to support everyone in the community. It doesn’t do us any of us any good if we don’t all recover out of this.”
Banking leaders attribute such herculean efforts to their devoted employees—men and women who have their own families to care for, and their own hardships with which to contend as a result of the lockdown. But they have done so because they want to help their communities remain viable and have a smooth recovery once the threat level has dissipated. 
Rory G. Ritrievi, president and CEO of Mid Penn Bank and its parent company, Mid Penn Bancorp, says he’s “in awe” of his team. During peak demand for PPP loans, some employees worked shifts that stretched on for 20 hours or longer, but they were happy to do so because they realized what was at stake.  
“I didn’t even have to ask; they were all volunteering,” says Ritrievi. “On the Saturday before Easter Sunday, I said, ‘No one is allowed to come in tomorrow,’ because it would have been the first day we took off since all this began. Frankly, since March 22, we took off only three days—Easter and two other Sundays. Our people did it because they knew it was important to the community. Businesses and the employees of those businesses are the community, and our people realized they needed to be saved.” 

Interest Earned
The Greater Philadelphia Area boasts a number of respected community banks with deep local roots, including many that maintain their headquarters in the Philadelphia suburbs. The following institutions have widened their respective footprints in the area, in terms of either the number of branch locations, the products and services they offer, or their efforts to support the communities in which they do business—and, in some cases, all of the above.
Ambler Savings Bank
Bryn Mawr Trust


Centric Bank

The First National Bank & Trust Co. of Newtown
First Resource Bank
Hatboro Federal Savings
Huntingdon Valley Bank
Malvern Bank
Meridian Bank

Mid Penn Bank

Monument Bank
Penn Community Bank
Philadelphia Federal Credit Union
Republic Bank
Tompkins VIST Bank
Univest Bank and Trust Co.

Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Life magazine, May 2020.