Aaron Stetter: Engineering economic relief

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R–Calif.), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D–Calif.) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D–Md.) presented the CARES Act at a March 27 ceremony. Photo: Sarh Silbiger/Bloomberg/Getty Images

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, ICBA is pushing Congress to help community bankers provide economic support.

By Aaron Stetter, ICBA

With the coronavirus presenting unprecedented challenges to both Americans and the American economy, ICBA has worked tirelessly to promote legislative solutions that can help community banks support employment, the economy and their communities.

From ICBA president and CEO Rebeca Romero Rainey’s meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House on March 11 to ICBA Government Relations personnel working directly with members of Congress and their staff, ICBA is leading the fight to ensure community banks have access to every available tool to help consumers and small businesses in the rural, suburban and urban markets they serve.

As Romero Rainey told the president, “America’s community banks are strong, well-capitalized and stand ready to support their small business and consumer clients with ready access to credit.”

Since the beginning of the crisis, ICBA has had intensive discussions with community bankers to gather their ideas for effectively addressing the crisis. ICBA continually communicated those recommendations to congressional leaders in both the House and Senate as well as the leaders of the relevant congressional committees of jurisdiction that were charged with crafting the bill.

And lawmakers on Capitol Hill heard your voices. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, passed at the end of March, included many ICBA-advocated stimulus measures. The legislation will:

  • enhance the Small Business Administration’s 7(a) loan program by providing $350 billion in small business “paycheck protection” loans for eligible borrowers, including businesses with fewer than 500 employees affected by COVID-19
  • provide net-operating-loss (NOL) tax relief by creating a five-year NOL carryback for tax years 2018, 2019 and 2020 to allow businesses with losses to recover taxes paid in prior years
  • authorize robust FDIC deposit insurance coverage for transaction accounts delay implementation of the current expected credit losses (CECL) accounting standard, a provision of the bill that expires at the earlier of year-end 2020 or at the expiration of the national emergency declaration
  • ensure coronavirus-related loan modifications are not classified by regulators as troubled debt restructurings (TDR) under U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP)
  • reduce the community bank leverage ratio from 9% to 8% during the COVID-19 national emergency, which provides relief from complex capital calculations for qualifying community banks
  • fund USDA Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) support for livestock and specialty crop producers, by providing $14 billion to replenish the USDA’s CCC and a separate $9.5 billion to support livestock, dairy and specialty crop producers through the CCC

ICBA is also working to help America’s farmers by ensuring community banks can continue to provide credit during this time of financial distress. While much of this was addressed in the CARES Act, suggestions have included:

  • enacting the Enhancing Credit Opportunities in Rural America (ECORA) Act (H.R. 1872 and S. 1641.) to exempt from taxation interest on loans secured by farm real estate or primary residences in rural communities with fewer than 2,500 residents
  • expanding the USDA Guaranteed Lending Program by increasing loan limits, reducing fees, funding USDA’s interest-rate buy-down program, and giving banks and borrowers the ability to choose which USDA office they borrow from
  • excluding the amount of a loan insured by crop insurance from a bank’s lending limits
  • enacting regulatory forbearance allowing banks to work with troubled ag borrowers instead of foreclosing
  • exempting USDA- and SBA-guaranteed loans and refinancings from environmental impact statements under the National Environmental Procedures Act (NEPA), which was covered in the CARES Act
  • maintaining crop insurance funding

As community banks continue to support their customers and communities, make time to reach out to your members of Congress and encourage them to introduce and pass legislation that will make it easier for community banks to fulfill their important role in our country’s economy.

Aaron Stetter (aaron.stetter@icba.org) is ICBA’s executive vice president, policy and political operations