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CLINTON, N.J., April 29, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Gary Shiman, Co-Owner and Executive Vice President of Bellari Home Remodeling of Branchburg, represents one of the nearly 1,000 businesses that will receive more than $130 million in Unity Bank loans through the Small Business Administration (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), the special funding initiative designed to help small businesses survive the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“I consider myself very lucky to have been a customer of Unity Bank when this crisis struck because the government placed banks in a very difficult position by asking them to be responsible for getting PPP funds in the hands of businesses,” said Shiman. “Banks had to drop everything and turn on a dime to make PPP happen, which was not an easy task. Unity Bank is everything a community bank is supposed to be so they made it happen for us, but I could have lost a 70-year-old business if not for Unity.”
Bellari, formed in 1950 under the name Somerville Aluminum, has about 40 employees, half of which were laid off as a result of the crisis with the remainder accepting a 25% pay cut to keep working. Shiman said the company has lost 95% of its business since the COVID-19 outbreak began.
“Unity’s lending team has been working around the clock, evenings and weekends to process all the PPP applications we received from our customers,” said Unity Bank President & CEO James A. Hughes. “I could not be prouder of our employees because all completed Unity Bank customer applications have been approved or are being processed. Unity’s team made the commitment to help our customers because there are many businesses who would not have survived the crisis otherwise.”
In the first round of federal funding for the PPP, Unity closed and funded 451 SBA approved loans, totaling more than $89 million. In the second round of federal funding, just announced this week, Unity approved 504 requests, totaling nearly $42 million.
“All of our operations have been impacted by COVID 19,” said Bob Frankenfield, Executive Director of Family Promise of Warren County, which received a PPP loan with Unity. “Our shelter program is closed because all of the congregations that have closed. The way our program works, prior to the crisis one house of worship may have been scheduled to host homeless families about four times a year for one week at a time, but due to the fact that the congregations are closed and many of our volunteers are in a high-risk category, unfortunately, we cannot serve these families. Our re-housing and homeless prevention program applications also have been dramatically reduced because of regulatory requirements despite our best efforts to serve the community. The end result will be a huge surge in service requests when the lockdown is lifted.”
Loans for the second round of funding are still being processed by SBA. The average PPP loan size to date approved by Unity is about $140,000 and thousands of jobs have been saved by its PPP lending activity. The geographic location of the businesses receiving Unity PPP loans are: New Jersey, 89%; Pennsylvania, 5%; New York, 5%; and other, 1%.
“I can finally sleep at night,” said Jill Reising, a Unity PPP recipient who is part owner of Jersey Mike's Subs franchises operating in Flemington, and Doylestown, Pa. “We have 36 employees between the two restaurants and have been a Unity SBA customer since the Flemington location was opened six years ago. Our plans are to open a third restaurant in New Hope, Pa. this summer, hopefully. We had to cut down to about eight or 10 between the two locations and our business is down 50% to 60%, but at least we do not have to worry about paying our employees and we are healthy.”
Thomas True, CEO, President and Founder of True & Associates of Westfield, an insurance agency with offices in Clinton, Cranford and New York City, said his business has declined between 25% and 50% since the start of the crisis.
“We likely would have had to lay-off 11 of our 56 employees had we not received the PPP funds from Unity,” said True, a customer of the bank for about 10 years. “We were very proactive reaching out to our customers to negotiate premium relief for them with the insurance carriers that have their policies because insurance coverage is one of the biggest expenses on the corporate balance sheet. Unity was very helpful organizing the PPP process for us and I know that has not been the case for many companies with other banks so we are thankful for that longstanding relationship with a community banking leader.”
PPP is designed for any small business with less than 500 employees, including sole proprietorships, independent contractors and self-employed persons, private non-profit organizations or 501(c)(19) veterans organizations affected by COVID-19. Businesses in certain industries may have more than 500 employees if they meet the SBA’s size standards for those industries. Business owners can apply through any existing SBA 7(a) lender or through any federally insured depository institution, federally insured credit union, and Farm Credit System institution that is participating.
“Last year, Unity updated its lending technology and adopted Abrigo as its SBA lending solution to enable the bank to secure PPP loans for customers not historically served by larger financial institutions,” Hughes said. “The technology investment was important to our success with PPP lending as the software upgrade helped Unity secure the funds for our customers. This improvement in efficiency has allowed Unity to redeploy lending officers back to the field and re-start our normal lending operations. We are here for your business.”
Unity participates in the 7(a) Loan Program, SBA’s primary program to help start-up and existing small businesses obtain financing when they might not be eligible for business loans through normal lending channels. The bank also participates in the SBA 504 Loan program, an economic development program that offers small businesses long-term, fixed-rate financing used to acquire fixed assets for expansion or modernization.
About Unity Bancorp, Inc.
Unity Bancorp, Inc. (UNTY), the parent company of Unity Bank, its primary and wholly owned subsidiary, is a financial services organization headquartered in Clinton, New Jersey. Unity Bank provides financial services to businesses and consumers at 19 branches throughout New Jersey and the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. Unity Bank provides community-oriented commercial banking services, including deposit accounts, loans, online and mobile services. For more information, please visit www.unitybank.com or call 800-618-BANK (800-618-2265).
Yankee Public Relations