By Hannah Flanders

It has been two years since March 11, 2020, yet its transformation is still felt far and wide. A time marked by swift transition and angst among all — bankers will recall the call to action by their community members to be there through this time of uncertainty.

2020 and 2021 were marked by Wisconsin bankers’ quick action in providing Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans to local businesses, increased digitalized services, and defense from COVID-related fraud. Bankers continually step up to the challenge of providing critical support and the sense of stability to communities throughout Wisconsin, a tradition as old as the industry itself, and the events of the last several years have only highlighted the dedication they have for one another.

At the onset of the pandemic, many bank branches in Wisconsin closed their lobbies and non-client facing employees were sent home to work. As restrictions have eased throughout the last two years, bankers not only have returned to the office with a greater sense of commitment to their communities, but a new perspective on their role within the bank.

“Even as the pandemic seems to be winding down, our bank’s focus continues to be protecting the health and safety of our associates, clients, and communities,” says Paul Hoffmann, president and CEO of Monona Bank. In an effort to provide this for the Monona Bank team, Hoffmann explains the bank’s effort in establishing a ‘COVID team’ responsible for keeping fellow employees updated regarding recent trends.

From IT departments and marketing officers to the frontline staff, many experienced a major shift in the way their position impacted the bank.

One of the immediate changes Loni Meiborg, senior vice president of organizational development at Fortifi Bank, Berlin, noticed as the pandemic wore on is the need to do more with less. “[Fortifi was] already running with lean branch staff, and we had to prepare for the worst — the potential of a total sweep of our team,” said Meiborg. “This led us to cross-train more aggressively, ask the team for schedule flexibility, and deploy support staff to front-line environments to remain open in some circumstances. We felt our integrity and reputation rested on the clients’ access to their money. Even when lobbies closed, we found a way to reassure clients that we’re here and open through this.”

Additionally, Meiborg’s role as senior vice president of marketing transitioned to its current title of senior vice president of organizational development during the pandemic to allow Fortifi Bank to further understand the functionalities of the bank in addition to prioritizing the strong relationship between employee and client. This trend was hardly exclusive to Wisconsin community banks, as bankers throughout the industry took on greater responsibility in ensuring the bank continued to operate smoothly and that it was also meeting the needs of both the customers and its employees.

The roles of bankers were also dependent on the physical location. Front-line staff faced the challenge of assisting customers in ways they never previously had and became responsible for
making bank offices and lobbies COVID-friendly. Those working partially or fully remote grappled with PPP-related coverage, assisting in departments apart from their own, and engaging with customers from a distance. However, though these challenges proved difficult, bankers were able to adapt to their circumstances, grow as team members, and gain valuable work experience in other aspects of the bank. These involuntary exercises in team building have given bankers a greater perspective on the operations of their bank and have helped prepare staff for the potential of future interruptions.

“Each spring, Westbury Bank holds a celebration for its staff and their hard work over the past year,” told Lisa Dixon, senior vice president of retail banking. “The final stages of planning were brought to a screeching halt in March 2020. Between remote workers, alternating branch staff, and limited in-person meetings, our staff quickly began to feel a sense of isolation. It was important for our bank to find new ways to engage team members safely and meaningfully.”

These activities included Friday bingo, weekly trivia, designing masks, and pumpkin carving shared via the intranet. Dixon explains that it continues to be important for banks to foster an environment of unity for the betterment of employee culture — even as bankers return to their offices and COVID-related restrictions subside.

Recently, the media has shown strives to rebound to the “way things were” before March 2020. Individuals and businesses alike have seen a dramatic shift in their day-today operations, but efforts to embrace the realities of the future in every opportunity and challenge it provides should not be forgotten.

In addition to the ways the roles of bankers have changed, the tools bankers now use to perform daily functions have adapted to the digital world. Technology streamlined through remote  work — Teams, Zoom, digital signatures, and many others — continue to be resources bankers rely on to perform their tasks and meet the needs of customers.

The digital evolution of banks and their bankers were critical in limiting exposure during the virus’s peak and continue to be important in talent retention and attracting new customers. During the pandemic, it was critical that banks invest in the technology that would keep their staff and customers connected. In the aftermath, these advancements have been important in keeping the banking industry relevant among constant development.

“Increased usage of our mobile app for banking, along with the desire to move toward an ‘appointment’ approach for our bankers, had been on our agenda for quite some time,” says Dixon. “The pandemic gave us the opportunity to further promote those services we knew our customers would love. They’ve [since] embraced them whole heartedly as it gives them the ability to bank on their schedule.”

Over the course of the pandemic, bankers throughout Wisconsin expanded their reach, reinforced their bonds with community members, and established loyal customers who understand the importance of banking local. “Clients have come to rely on us for guidance in the market, business economics, and planning for their future,” says Meiborg. “We proved that we were reliable when the world wasn’t.”

“[Monona Bank] has never had so many unsolicited recommendations and referrals as the past several years, which I attribute to being there when they needed us when others were not,” says Hoffmann. “We helped many clients keep their businesses open and their employees working. This helped us build loyalty and trust with our clients and community.”

Bankers have truly stepped up and into their communities over the last two years. In reassuring Wisconsinites that their community banks were the safest place not only to keep their money, but to obtain trusted guidance and comradery, the industry has proven itself to be a reliable asset to every community. As the banking industry continues to evolve and grow, bankers prove themselves as dedicated and adaptable for not only the benefit of their communities, but for their team as well.

On January 28, SBA released Procedural Notice 5000-827666 regarding SBA loan reviews of PPP Lender partial approval forgiveness decisions. The notice outlines a new process to allow PPP Borrowers to request an SBA loan review of partial approval forgiveness decisions issued by their PPP Lenders. The procedures in the notice apply to loan forgiveness decisions submitted by Lenders to SBA through both the regular forgiveness process as well as the Direct Borrower Forgiveness process. The notice is effective January 27, 2022.

The notice reiterates the process for a partial approval forgiveness decision and the steps that need to be taken by the Lender when it receives a forgiveness application from a Borrower. The notice also outlines a new process for borrower requests of SBA loan review of a partial approval forgiveness decision.

Starting from the effective date of the notice, when a Lender receives a forgiveness remittance from SBA on a partial approval decision, including where the Lender required the borrower to apply for forgiveness in an amount less than the full amount of the loan, the Lender’s post-forgiveness remittance notification must inform the borrower that the borrower has 30 calendar days from receipt of the notification to seek, through the Lender, an SBA loan review of the Lender’s partial approval decision. Within five calendar days of a Lender’s receipt of a borrower’s timely request for an SBA loan review, the Lender must notify SBA through the Platform. The Lender’s notice to SBA of the borrower’s timely request for review must include a copy of the Lender’s notice to the borrower of the reason(s) for the Lender’s partial approval decision. SBA reserves the right to review the Lender’s decision at its sole discretion.

Additionally, within 30 calendar days of the date of the notice, Lenders must notify all of their borrowers on loans that previously received a partial forgiveness remittance from SBA as a result of Lender partial approval decisions, including where the Lender required the borrower to apply for forgiveness in an amount less than the full amount of the PPP loan, that the borrower has 30 calendar days from receipt of the Lender notification to seek, through the Lender, an SBA loan review of the Lender’s partial approval decision. Within five calendar days of the Lender’s receipt of a borrower’s timely request for an SBA loan review, the Lender must notify SBA through the Platform. The Lender’s notice to SBA of the borrower’s timely request for review must include a copy of the Lender’s prior notice to the borrower of the reason(s) for the Lender’s partial approval decision. Again, SBA reserves the right to review the Lender’s partial approval decision at its sole discretion.

In either circumstance, if SBA selects the loan for an SBA loan review as a result of the borrower’s request, the borrower must continue to make payments on the remaining balance of the loan, and the loan is not deferred.

If SBA determines, as a result of the SBA loan review, that the borrower is entitled to forgiveness in an amount greater than the Lender’s partial approval decision and SBA has previously remitted a partial forgiveness payment to the Lender, SBA will remit an additional forgiveness payment to the Lender to make up the difference. SBA will issue an additional Notice of Paycheck Protection Program Forgiveness Payment (Payment Notice) to the Lender.

If the SBA loan review results in a higher forgiveness amount, but less than full forgiveness, SBA will also issue a final SBA loan review decision to the Lender. The Lender must provide a copy of the Payment Notice and, if applicable, the final SBA loan review decision, to the borrower within 5 business days of the remittance and comply with applicable requirements of the Lender Responsibilities Notice. If a borrower has begun making payments on their loan and the SBA loan review results in full forgiveness, the Lender must refund all payments made by the borrower.

If the SBA loan review results in a higher forgiveness amount, but less than full forgiveness, the lender must re-amortize the PPP loan and refund any excess payments made by the borrower.

Note: PPP Borrowers that have received full denial forgiveness decisions from their Lenders should continue to follow the process outlined in the Interim Final Rule on Loan Forgiveness Requirements and Loan Review Procedures as amended by the Economic Aid Act (86 FR 8283, February 5, 2021), as amended.

Lenders may call the Lender Hotline at (833) 572-0502 for live assistance regarding PPP access and support, policy questions and procedures, and Capital Access Financial System (CAFS) and SBA’s Electronic Transmission (E-Tran) systems support. Questions concerning the notice may be directed to the Lender Relations Specialist in the local SBA Field Office.

Notice 5000-827666 is posted on the WBA website.

Ken Thompson HeadshotBy Kenneth D. Thompson, WBA Board chair, president and CEO of Capitol Bank, Madison

January marks the halfway point of my time as WBA chair and as we transition into a new year, there are undoubtedly new things to look forward to as an industry and as an association.

Our successes in 2021, many of which related to the ongoing uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, taught us all valuable lessons I hope can be brought with us into the new year. From low levels of past-due loans throughout our industry to excess liquidity, it’s safe to say that stepping outside of our routine has resulted in spectacular results.

Looking onward to 2022, I encourage bankers to approach challenges with the same curiosity we have for the past two years. As our industry continues to grow, how will each of us lead the way in making Wisconsin banks efficient, diverse, and robust?

WBA has long known that banks are cornerstones in our communities and as such, should be leaders in embracing societal developments. Technology, for both our customers and employees, has been and should continue to be an aspect that sets our industry apart. In embracing these digital channels, banks have a unique ability to meet the expectations of customers while also supporting them with cybersecurity and best technological practices.

Our ability to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts, as well as offer flexibility to employees, has the potential to set our industry apart. This is especially important to consider as we navigate through a competitive hiring and retention landscape.

As we all envision a brighter 2022, it serves us to remember that innovative solutions, such as PPP and advances in online banking, have provided our communities with much-needed assistance in the past. We must not be held back by what we are familiar with. This pandemic has taught us all that some of the most effective answers may not be the ones that have been tried before.

It is essential for banks to approach these situations with caution instead of resistance and as always, WBA remains a valuable resource in education, advocacy, and community involvement for each of us as we look forward to what’s to come in 2022.

SBA released a Lenders Line notice yesterday to include information regarding PPP forgiveness, forms, and program data. In the release, SBA stated that it remains on schedule to begin taking Direct Forgiveness as of Tuesday, Aug 4. The pilot process reportedly went well with positive feedback from both participating lenders and borrowers. Participating lenders should have received a welcome package that includes sample messaging that may be used to welcome borrowers. SBA also encourages lenders to notify their borrowers of the Direct Forgiveness platform launch and the associated live customer service. SBA is to furnish frequent updates of the status of the program, lessons learned, and enhancements. SBA has already added several features to make it easier for borrowers to find their SBA Number and engage in the Direct Forgiveness process. SBA is to hold weekly direct borrower training.    

SBA also released new PPP Forgiveness Applications which have an effective date of July 31, and form expiration date of Jan 2022. WBA and FIPCO are in the process of making the newest version of the forms fillable. The forgiveness forms may be viewed at:

3508 Standard PPP Forgiveness Application

3508EZ Streamlined PPP Forgiveness Application for certain loans > $150,000

3508S Simplified PPP Forgiveness Application for loan < $150,000

3508D Borrower’s Disclosure of Certain Controlling Interests

SBA also released the latest PPP Forgiveness Platform Lender Submission Metric Report, effective Jul 30.

By, Cassie Krause

Awash with deposits that have surged amid a pandemic-rocked economy and billions of dollars in federal aid, Wisconsin banks are trying to make the most of the excess liquidity. 

At the end of 2020, deposits at banks based in Wisconsin were up 15% from the year before, driven largely by federal covid relief aid to businesses and consumers, credit paydowns, and a reduction in consumer and corporate spending. 

The U.S. personal saving rate, which stood at 7.6% at the beginning of 2020, was 13.6% in February of this year. Now, with federal COVID relief of $2.3 billion headed to Wisconsin’s local governments over the next two years as part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, deposits are expected to swell further. 

“Anecdotally, our members have told us they are swimming in liquidity,” said Ashish Tripathy, portfolio manager at the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago. 

Bankers in Wisconsin are strategizing to deal with the glut of deposits. The approaches are limited, and the excess liquidity can be especially problematic for small banks that are reliant on net interest margin and don’t have units such as insurance or wealth management to generate other fee income. 

“When spreads narrow, narrow, narrow down and money is really cheap and deposits aren’t worth anything, that’s when it’s tougher,” said Jim Popp, president and chief executive officer of Johnson Financial Group in Racine. 

Popp noted that about 40% of Johnson’s Financial’s income comes from fees, which is helping the company deal with the liquidity surge. 

“The banks that have complimentary fee-based business — that don’t rely so heavily or solely on net interest margin — are those that I think are managing,” Popp said. 

Some banks are buying securities to cope with the deposit growth, while some are repaying Federal Home Loan Bank advances or other debt borrowings. Some are trimming low deposit rates a bit more. All are looking for good loans to absorb some of the deposits that are piling up. 

Tripathy said bankers have to ask themselves: “Should I just keep this liquidity at the Fed and make just 10 basis points while waiting for loan demand to come back?” 

Tripathy also noted that bankers may choose to buy securities in the hope of getting a better rate. They can select between short-term securities with a skimpy return or long-term ones with a higher yield. Some choose both to keep balance while being prepared for a return to a better lending environment. 

Some banks are finding growth in several categories of loans, such as multifamily lending and mortgages. 

“Many are just sitting on liquidity, too, so it’s a mixed bag,” Tripathy said. 

Mike Molepske, CEO of Bank First in Manitowoc, said his bank currently is “sitting on $250 million in excess funds.” 

“And we have another $250 million of PPP (Payroll Protection Program loans) yet to get forgiven. On top of that, we just had the next round of stimulus checks going out, which is adding more liquidity,” he said. 

Molepske said much of the $2.3 billion in COVID relief money coming to local governments in the state will end up in banks until it’s utilized. 

Bank First has opted to pay off Federal Home Loan Bank borrowing as one way to cope with the excess liquidity. 

“It’s been a good opportunity for banks that have relied on wholesale funding – brokered deposits and such – it’s been a great opportunity to deleverage themselves from those other forms of wholesale funding,” Molepske said. 

His bank has experienced growth in business lending, which helps, Molepske. But it’s not enough yet to put much of a dent in deposit growth. 

“We are seeing good business loan growth, albeit it’s not going to be anywhere close to burn what we have in excess funds,” he said. 

Molepske said it’s important for banks, in a period of excess liquidity, not to make loans they wouldn’t normally make. 

“One thing the industry should really avoid doing is knee-jerk reactions. I call it ‘avoid stupid,’” Molepske said. “It’s OK to have a little extra money. It’ll be there tomorrow, it’ll be there a year from now, six months from now. The industry’s not in a rush to deploy all the liquidity. You need to be prudent about it.” 

Tripathy said it’s logical that banks will reduce deposit interest rates at a time like this. 

“You’ve got to look at your deposits, segment them, and pay only the good relationships the higher money, but reduce the interest rates to almost zero for everything else,” Tripathy said. 

Even that can be tricky, though, in a competitive market. 

“You don’t want to cut your spreads so low that you drive your customers someplace else, because eventually it’s going to normalize,” said Johnson Bank’s Popp. “You kind of have to grind through it and keep your customers through the process.” 

Kelly Brown said her Pewaukee-based firm, American Deposit Management, has been working on the excess liquidity issue. Banks in places where the economy is open and taking off, like Florida and Texas, can use deposits that are sitting in banks in states with long lockdowns, like New York and California. ADM connects banks that need deposits with banks that have too much. 

“By doing that, in 2020, we had the best year this company’s ever had,” Brown said. “It’s been unbelievably busy here.” 

Tripathy pointed out that the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago’s advance borrowing rates have come down “very close to Treasuries,” and that the agency pays a dividend. 

Although the excess liquidity situation would lessen if the economy takes off in a way that dramatically increases lending, no one knows how fast the economy will grow. 

“I really do think the economy is poised for some pretty strong growth this year, and that’s positive for this situation. The question is how quickly can we reopen the entire economy and get people spending all that money they’ve been saving up,” said James Hotchkiss, vice president and director of Member Strategy and Solutions for the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago. 

Large-scale vacationing and travel, for instance, would be an important boost to the economy. 

“Loan demand is still struggling right now,” Hotchkiss said. “It’s better at small banks than it is at larger banks, but if loans pick up at the same time deposit inflows slow down, banks could see a quicker normalization of their balance sheet. But it’s really how quickly that spending happens.” 

With so much money accumulating in bank deposits, and with another $2.3 billion on the way to Wisconsin’s local governments, legislation to protect public funds in the event of a bank failure is being drafted in the Wisconsin legislature. The bill would increase to $1 million – from the current $400,000 – the amount of compensation available from the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions for losses suffered by a state or local government if their money was on deposit at a financial institution that fails. 

The Department of Financial Institution said it couldn’t comment on the bill because it’s still only in draft form. 

Whether inflation is eventually coming because there’s so much money in the economy – or whether this time is different – is anyone’s guess. 

Popp said he believes Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell doesn’t want to do anything that upsets the recovery. 

“I think it’s kind of how we’re viewing it, too,” said Popp. “We haven’t viewed inflation as being an overly problematic situation at this point. We’re more focused on let’s get back to an economy that’s really humming, and especially in sectors like hospitality, airlines, and some of the things that really drive growth in the economy.” 

Hotchkiss said if there is a “spending bonanza from all that cash” the country could see substantial inflation for the first time in 30 years. 

Although there are signs of price pressure in some reports, a rise in wages isn’t occurring, he said. 

“You can’t really have sustained inflation without wage growth,” Hotchkiss said. “Right now, wages are coming down, which normally is not a good thing. But in this case, it is a good thing because that means all of those lower-paid workers, in the service sector especially, are coming back into the economy and that’s lowering the average hourly earning number. But you really can’t see sustained inflation unless people have more money to spend.” 

Bank First’s Molepske said inflation is coming, but doesn’t know when. 

“In 2008 and during the pandemic, we really just threw out a lot of what we were taught in economics classes. But one thing that hasn’t been thrown out in economics is Economics 101. It’s called supply and demand,” he said. 

Molepske added: “It’s not different this time. There will be higher interest rates, in my opinion. It could be six months, it could be 18 months, it could be two years. But at some point, it has to happen.” 

The Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago is a WBA Gold Associate Member.

Paul Gores is a journalist who covered business news for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for 20 years. Have a story idea? Contact him at 

By, Alex Paniagua

Q: Can a Self-Employed Individual Use Gross Income from Both Schedule C and Schedule F to Calculate Loan Amount and Percentage Reduction for a Second Draw PPP Loan?

A: Yes. For a second draw paycheck protection program (PPP) loan, a self-employed individual who is eligible to use gross income from both Schedule C and Schedule F to calculate loan amount should add the gross receipts of their Schedule C business with the gross receipts of their Schedule F business together and compare this sum against the sum of their gross receipts of their Schedule C and Schedule F business gross receipts for their chosen reference period.

Q: Has the PPP Application Deadline Been Extended?

A: Yes. On March 30th, the PPP Extension Act of 2021 (Act) was signed into law, extending the Small Business Administration’s authority to guarantee PPP loans through June 30, 2021. 

However, the new application deadline is May 31st. Thus, while SBA will process loans through June 30th, it will not accept applications past May 31st. Any PPP loan guaranty applications submitted by lenders in the PPP platform before June 1, 2021, must be processed and receive an SBA loan number by 11:59 pm EDT on June 30, 2021. At 12:00 am EDT on July 1, 2021, SBA will shut down processing of any pending PPP loan guaranty applications from lenders for which an SBA loan number has not been issued. The additional time period for processing of PPP loan guaranty applications received before June 1, 2021, allows lenders and SBA to resolve hold codes and compliance check error messages.

Furthermore, SBA has issued a notice modifying SBA Form 3506, 3507, and 750 CA (when used for PPP purposes) (forms) to reflect the Act. The notice modifies the forms for previously-approved lenders by extending the termination date set forth in Section 8 or Section 19 in each such form (as applicable) from “April 1, 2021” to “July 1, 2021.” Revised SBA forms 3506 and 3507 for new lenders will be issued and will be made available at

If you have any questions on this topic or other matters of compliance, contact WBA’s legal call program at 608-441-1200 or

Birrenkott is WBA assistant director – legal. For legal questions, please email

Note: The above information is not intended to provide legal advice; rather, it is intended to provide general information about banking issues. Consult your institution’s attorney for special legal advice or assistance. 

By, Alex Paniagua

The 2021 Wisconsin legislative session is off to a busy, and productive start. Two key pieces of legislation were recently enacted into law, which are discussed in this article. Both pieces of legislation were supported by WBA throughout the process that led to enactment. Each provides meaningful benefits to banks and their customers.  

This article is focused on law that has been passed. At the time of this article’s publication, the legislature is still in session. WBA and its government relations team remain hard at work. Bills that are later signed into law will be discussed in future publications.  
Tax Conformity and PPP Deductibility 

On February 18, 2021, Governor Evers signed Assembly Bill 2 into law as 2021 Wisconsin Act 1 (Act 1). Act 1 contains various provisions which conform state tax law to recent federal changes. It includes a section which permits deductibility of business expenses paid for with Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan proceeds at the state level, just as they are at the federal level. Without this change, Wisconsin businesses which received PPP loans would have faced over $400 million in unexpected tax implications over the next three years. 

To look at it more specifically, Wisconsin Statute section 71.05 provides for income tax computation for state and local revenues. Pursuant to Act 1, a provision has been added to that section which exempts from taxation certain allowances from the federal coronavirus relief fund, including grants to small businesses. Thus, Act 1 federalizes Wisconsin tax law with respect to treatment of certain economic support programs funded through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, including loans under the PPP, and deduction of expenses paid with funds from such loans. These provisions take effect for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2018. 

COVID Premises Liability Protection 

On February 25, 2021, Governor Evers signed Special Session Senate Bill 1 into law as 2021 Wisconsin Act 4 (Act 4). Act 4 provides immunity for entities from civil liability for a COVID-19-related injury or death, except in the case of reckless or wanton conduct or intentional misconduct. The immunity is retroactive to claims accruing on or after March 1, 2020, but does not apply to an action filed before its enactment.

Act 4 applies to “entities” which broadly includes partnerships, corporations, associations, governmental units, Tribal governments, schools, nonprofit organizations, and any employer covered by state unemployment insurance laws. The law also provides immunity beyond the employer-employee relationship and would apply, for example, to a business’ customers, a school’s students, or a nursing home facility’s patients. 

Thus, the civil liability protection created under Act 4 allows entities, including financial institutions, to continue operation or begin opening their doors with immunity from claims of liability for acts or omissions resulting in exposure to COVID-19. This is a significant piece of legislation as Wisconsin’s financial institutions continue to be on the economic frontlines of the crisis and have been since its inception. 

More specifically, Wis. Stat. section 895.476 provides that beginning March 1, 2020, an entity is immune from civil liability for the death of or injury to any individual or damages caused by an act or omission resulting in or relating to exposure, directly or indirectly, to the novel coronavirus identified as SARS−CoV−2 or COVID−19 in the course of or through the performance or provision of the entity’s functions or services. 

Immunity under Act 4 is in addition to, not in lieu of, other immunity granted by law, and nothing in the above section limits immunity granted under any other provision of law, such as workman’s compensation laws, which, for example, generally provides an exclusive remedy for sick or injured workers. Also, as noted above, this immunity does not apply if the act or omission involves reckless or wanton conduct or intentional misconduct. Thus, financial institutions should continue to take steps to mitigate the risk of exposure to COVID-19. Financial institutions are reminded to remain mindful of state and local mandates, guidance, and recommended procedures. For example, considering the standards issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Wisconsin Department of Health Services, and local government issuances such as county orders. Banks should also consider consulting with its legal counsel for a fuller, more specific analysis of how it can obtain protections under Act 4. 

WBA will continue to monitor existing bills and update the membership on any significant changes. If you have any additional questions on any of the above laws, do not hesitate to contact us at

Additional Resources 
2021 Wisconsin Act 1 

2021 Wisconsin Act 4 

WBA’s reopening resource center 

CDC Guidance for Businesses and Employers 

OSHA Guidance on preparing workplaces for COVID-19 

OSHA Updated Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the workplace 

DHS Guidance for Employers 

By, Alex Paniagua

A novel virus, a global shutdown, and a drastic lifestyle change — the pandemic has continued for more than a year, and it can feel as though it has been a part of life for so much longer. Looking back at the components of this event, WBA spoke with bankers to discuss the industry’s year in the pandemic, what the effects have been, and what life might look like once it’s over. 

March 13, 2020 — Trump Declares COVID-19 a National Emergency 

Looking Back At the Start 

Take a moment to try and recall where you were on Friday, March 13 of 2020. This day for many has become the defining line between an old reality and the current one. When places shut down, it was hard to accept that this situation was actually happening. 

“I can remember specifically that when this hit, the immediate feeling was disbelief,” said Dan Peterson, president and CEO of Stephenson National Bank and Trust, Marinette. “We were thinking there was no way a virus could do this to the entire world. Then reality set in, and you realize that this is shutting things down. And I remember having such a certain feeling that it would pass in the next month or two, never believing it would last for a full year and now longer.” 

Scott Rockwell, president and CEO of Bank of Wisconsin Dells, had the same reaction at first. This shock was followed by an attempt to understand what the next step would be to assure things didn’t collapse under pressure. 

“It became a matter of figuring out how we were going to operate,” Rockwell said. “We got the senior management team together to address day-to-day operations and shutting down lobbies while making sure all tasks were taken care of, employees were safe, and customers were helped.” 

Peterson and Rockwell both had the benefit of being home in Wisconsin when the shutdown began. Others had to determine how to make sense of this situation while on a different side of the world. 

“I remember when things shut down,” said Paul Hoffmann, president and CEO of Monona Bank, “because I was over in Europe when the announcement came that they were locking down the borders.” 

Although Hoffmann was eventually informed that American citizens would be allowed back in the country, it was not initially communicated this way. Instead, he woke up to a phone call at 3 in the morning from his daughter. She was telling him and his wife that they had to leave now, because the U.S. borders were going to close.  

“We were able to reschedule our flight and we headed back,” said Hoffmann. “Thankfully, while this was going on, our CFO Tim Ryan and COO Julie Redfern already started working on a disaster recovery plan. By the time I got back and reconnected, we were already underway with closing our lobbies and ordering more equipment. It was very bizarre to have been gone during that moment, but I’m grateful to have such a prepared team.” 

“It was a lot to go through in such a short amount of time,” Rockwell admitted, “but we were all safe, we were all prepared, and we’re still moving forward.”  

March 26, 2020 — Senate Passes the CARES Act 

The Defining Moments 

With the passing of the CARES Act, the banker’s word (or words) of the year, became known across the country: Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). 

“The defining moment for me came when we had to scramble to get ready for the onslaught of PPP applications from the first round,” said Hoffmann. “Not knowing the volume of applications and making sure we got everyone processed on time was a huge challenge…It was really an all-hands-on-deck effort by almost the entire bank – exhausting and exhilarating at the same time.” 

The feeling toward PPP seems to be mutual across the industry: it was a lot to fully understand and distribute due to the constant changes, but the amount of people and businesses it continues to help far outweighs the complications. Outside of the many stories that are accompanied by the mention of PPP, the defining moments of the pandemic extend beyond the program. For many, these moments had everything to do with how members of their team reacted to things like PPP rather than the challenges of the program itself. 

“With PPP, we were thrust into this new program, and it’s all rolling out at different times of the night, so people were taking on extra hours to make sure the community was taken care of,” said Rockwell. “It was crazy, but we all came together on these issues quite often and we became a better team because of it.” 

Still, the question of ‘what moments defined this past year?’ has not been an easy one to answer. The only thing we have been able to expect is the unexpected, and through PPP, team development, and everything in between, each step felt like something new was being learned.  

“With all the different things we went through, they all feel like defining moments,” said Peterson. “The realization that the pandemic was here and it wasn’t going be easy – that was a defining moment. The fact that our entire industry stepped up was a defining moment. The understanding that each step during the process was a brand new one – that made every single update a defining moment.” 

July 2 — Many States Reverse Plans to Reopen by July 4 

The Setbacks and Challenges 

The hope that people could gather to celebrate the Fourth of July was strung on for a while and then quickly cut as a possibility. The concern surrounding health and safety was a priority. Much like states were making these choices quickly and decisively, banks were forced to do the same.  

“We were making big decisions on a daily basis,” said Peterson. “This certainly wasn’t something we conquered on the first day. It took a few months to really understand it.” 

Having people work from home, whether it was only for the shutdown or continuing still, was one of many major decisions being handled differently at each bank. When July came around, this became more pressing as some businesses were returning to the office. Deciding when and how to bring employees back into branches was complicated for several reasons. 

“I think working from home was initially fine, but it became a different question for so many banks once their remote workforce had to be out of the office for longer than anyone expected,” said Hoffmann. “This was mostly about new technology, but it’s also about trying to be fair and establishing that process.” 

For example, customers still needed some form of access to the bank. With everyone dealing with various circumstances, this meant some employees would have to stay home to take care of their kids. Others experienced early symptoms of sickness and feared spreading anything to coworkers or customers. Meanwhile, some people were coming into work every day, and managing that flexibility became a new task.  

“It was all about trusting each other and knowing that we’re being as fair as we possibly can to everyone,” Hoffmann continued. “It’s been a challenge, but I believe we’ve been successful.” 

September 16, 2020 — Trump Administration Releases Vaccine Distribution Plan 

What Has Been Missed the Most 

In the moment a vaccine distribution plan was announced, it was not uncommon for people to take a step back from this new reality and realize how much has truly been absent in our lives. In the financial services industry, being a banker means being an active part in a community. This breaking news made many reminiscent on how prevalent the term ‘community’ is in banking. 

“Meeting with customers face-to-face is what I’ve missed the most,” Hoffmann said. “The interaction with employees, catching up with people in the hallways, and those side conversations are hard to do without.” 

It’s not surprising that this theme continues throughout. Rockwell noted that he hears too often that Hoffmann’s point is felt throughout the industry. After a year of the pandemic, it’s the little things that begin to feel especially distant. 

“As community bankers, we’re all about the people,” Rockwell agreed. “You'll probably hear over and over that we miss the handshakes and the interactions that you have with your customers and community members. You can’t even really see a smile right now.” 

Though there has been a successful transition toward making these encounters virtual to accommodate for social distancing, Peterson added it’s not quite the same as the feeling of being in person. 

“The inability to network and connect with everyone has been difficult,” said Peterson. “Whether it’s conferences or interactions with customers, that networking just went away overnight.” 

Peterson noted that while the instructional part of virtual conferences has been every bit as effective, it’s the after-hours part that has not been the same. He reminisced on going out to dinner with fellow bankers, talking shop, and strengthening those relationships. 

“The fellowship that’s so present at events like Bank Execs – it’s tough to replace that,” he said. 

January 11, 2021 – A New Round of PPP Loans Begins Distribution 

The Strengths of the Industry 

The process of PPP unknowingly tried to determine the best word to describe bankers, and it did so successfully. Whichever synonym you decide to use (and each banker managed to use their own) the notable strength of the industry during this constant change was the same: adaptability.   

“Banks were able to pivot very quickly in a lot of different ways,” Hoffmann said. “We pivoted with PPP loans and worked through different systems. We had to pivot to figure out what kind of loan modifications had to be done and how to do certain loan deferrals. We had to pivot to new technology that needed to be rolled out quickly, whether it was with working from home or e-signatures. I felt like we were really able to respond to the crisis well, and overall our industry was prepared for disaster and prepared to serve our customers.” 

“Flexibility. That is what community banks are built on,” said Rockwell. “Seeing what customers need and how you can play a role in that. Last year was one of those wild rides that you go on with something new at every turn. That flexibility not only helps your community, but it helps your staff. A lot of your staff are working, teaching, and being caretakers, all at the same time. You’re trying to help them navigate through that and get the job done.” 

“We were able to be nimble,” Peterson said. “I can say for the whole industry, customers have been saying that banks were great about transitioning to the virtual world.” 

March 12, 2021 – Every Wisconsinite 16 & Older is Eligible for Vaccination Starting May 1 

What’s Going To Stay? 

When Gov. Tony Evers announced that May 1 would be the day all Wisconsinites aged 16 and older could receive their first vaccination dose, the light at the end of the tunnel was growing brighter by the second. With the news that the list of those eligible to receive their first dose of the vaccine was growing significantly, many began to wonder what life would like after a return to normalcy. Through all this forced change, what implementations would stay as a result of a global pandemic? 

“The technology that we’ve adopted for integrating e-signatures, increased online loan applications, and everything else really pushed us to not only be more efficient for the future, but to provide a better customer experience as well,” Hoffmann said. “We’re also going to allow a hybrid work-from-home model that allows more flexibility. The pandemic has shown us that we are more than capable of doing work at home.” 

Rockwell agreed that the adoption of new technologies has been a significant part of growing his team’s growth and development. The biggest question they now have is to what extend these changes will take form in daily routines. 

“That’s the next thing we have to figure out,” said Rockwell. “When further implementing these changes, the key thing we have to wonder about is the culture. If you go all the way virtual in some cases, then that culture of socialization becomes rethought and reshaped as well. These are all things that we’ll continue to use moving forward, but the question is, at what level?” 

The internal factor of the technology shift has also been most notable for Peterson. Especially for larger groups and individuals who are regularly in and out of meetings, that ability to stay in one place rather than running back and forth is a positive outcome now that it’s a more feasible option. 

“Virtual meetings will definitely be something we continue to do for the board of directors and senior management, and all levels of the bank,” he said. “It’s such an efficient way to meet as a team.”  

March 13, 2021 – An Official Year in the Pandemic 

Moving Forward 

A lot has changed over the course of a year. Although it has been challenging, there has been noteworthy action taken to assure everyone survives this crisis. Bankers have especially noticed the amount of generosity that has helped so many during these difficult times. 

“People really stepped up,” said Peterson. “They wanted to help, whether it was a friend or their family or a customer or a coworker. That’s what made all the difference.” 

The financial support provided by banks especially helped so many struggling individuals keep moving forward, but as Rockwell put it, it was by no means the only thing banks offered.  

“All the community banks were a place of stability,” added Rockwell. “It was where your customers could go, whether through appointment or drive-thru, where they could manage financial affairs, get advice, and sometimes just talk to that familiar person you’ve come to know as your banker. Financial needs, modifying payment structures, PPP, EIDL; we’ve been there through it all, and that stability factor is the role banks truly played through this year and each one to come.”  

Despite all of the challenges, there is much to be grateful for, proud of, and optimistic toward. One of the most unexpected outcomes of the pandemic is it emphasized that the future of the industry is in excellent hands. 

“We had a large number of younger associates step up and take a leadership role through all of this,” said Hoffmann. “It was such an impressive thing to witness, and it reminded me how fortunate we are that the newer people in our organization are so qualified and ready to show leadership. It’s great to know our industry’s future is going to be bright with the vast amount of talent we have at our banks.”  

By, Alex Paniagua

SBA issued an interim final rule (IFR) to implement changes made to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) by the American Rescue Plan Act, enacted on March 11. Changes include: 

Shuttered Venue Operator (SVO), Page 6: 

If a PPP borrower receives a First Draw or Second Draw PPP Loan after December 27, 2020, the amount of any subsequently-approved SVO grant will be reduced by the amount of the First Draw or Second Draw PPP Loan.  

If a PPP borrower receives both a First Draw and a Second Draw PPP Loan after December 27, 2020, the amount of any subsequently-approved SVO grant will be reduced by the combined amount of both PPP loans. 

If a PPP applicant is approved for an SVO grant before SBA issues a loan number for the PPP Loan, the applicant is ineligible for the PPP loan and acceptance of any PPP loan proceeds will be considered an unauthorized use.  

Clarifying Changes, Pages  6 and 10 

SBA made a clarifying change to add, to the list of eligible entities for First Draw PPP Loans, businesses with a NAICS code beginning with 72 that employ no more than 500 employees per physical location. 

SBA also incorporated changes of eligibility for electronic cooperatives and telephone cooperatives. For PPP loans made after the effective date of the IFR, electronic cooperatives and telephone cooperatives are eligible if they have no more than 300 employees per physical location. (Previously, the employee cap to be eligible was no more than 500 employees.) Also, these entities are no longer permitted to use the employee-based SBA size standard for their industry or SBA’s alternative size standard to determine size. 

Payroll Costs Not Eligible for Loan Forgiveness, Pages 21-23 

The following payroll costs are not eligible for loan forgiveness: 

(a) qualified wages taken into account in determining  

(i) The Employee Retention Credit under section 2301 of the CARES Act, as amended by section 206 of the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020 (Relief Act);  

(ii) The Employee Retention Credit under section 3134 of the Internal Revenue Code; or 

(iii) The disaster credit under section 303 of the Relief Act, and Premiums for COBRA continuation coverage taken into account in determining the credit under section 6432 of the Internal Revenue Code. 

The IFR is effective upon publication in the Federal Register. The provisions which incorporate the American Rescue Plan Act changes to PPP apply to PPP loans approved, and forgiveness applications submitted, on or before March 11, 2021. 

By, Alex Paniagua

Origination Updates:    

As the 2021 (1st draw borrowers) are now becoming eligible for their 2nd draw PPP loan, SBA has provided the authorization to adjust the platform controls to ensure you can successfully submit second applications for these borrowers.  We plan to deploy these changes in production in the near future.  

As you know, the PPP platform already supports second draw loans for the borrowers who received their first draw loan last year (2020).  

Here is the summary of technical changes:  

  • If the 2021 first draw loan is fully disbursed, the lender can submit a second draw loan for the borrower.  This will be an important requirement to understand; the 2021 loans will still need to be fully disbursed in ETRAN. You can use the normal 1502 process or direct ETRAN. 
  • Get /api/origination/?tin=NNNNNNNNN&tin_type=N may return more than one Loan details in the response  
  • GET /api/etran_ppp_validation/?sba_number=NNNNNNNNNN can be used by Lenders to validate First draw loan  

With this advance notification, please think about your individual strategies to ensure your interface and systems will support more than one 2021 PPP loans for same borrower as applicable.  

All other PPP controls and requirements regarding 2nd draws will remain in place.  

GitHub will be updated by tomorrow to reflect these changes. 

Feel free to reach out to, if you have any technical queries.

By, Alex Paniagua