Aaron Stetter: Bringing Capitol Hill to you

The 2021 ICBA Capital Summit will be virtual, bringing new opportunities for community banks to engage with their legislators and other government officials.

By Aaron Stetter, ICBA

No one can tell the community banking story like a community banker—and it’s never been easier or more important to tell that story to lawmakers now that the ICBA Capital Summit is going virtual for 2021.

Every spring, hundreds of community bankers converge on Washington, D.C., to meet with and hear from lawmakers, regulators, government officials, pundits and other stakeholders to gather insights into legislation and regulation, exchange ideas and communicate the unique role community banks play as economic engines in America’s communities.

This year, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 Capital Summit will be held virtually the last week of April. The annual trip to D.C. is a beloved tradition for community bankers who find inspiration among the city’s historic monuments and enjoy a behind-the-scenes peek at our government’s inner workings. But there is one upside to this temporary change: It gives community bankers who normally wouldn’t make the trip to D.C. an opportunity to participate.

What to expect at the 2021 Capital Summit

With a brand-new administration in office and the 117th Congress in the early months of its first session, the summit is an opportunity for community bankers to engage with both new and returning lawmakers, as well as officials in the Biden administration.

There are more than 70 new faces on Capitol Hill and countless others in the administration. It’s the ideal time to reach out to elected officials and their key staff and tell them about the important role community banks play in the economy, especially during the pandemic. From helping small businesses access emergency funding through Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) lending to working with distressed customers and deferring payments, community bankers have been a lifeline for customers. Lawmakers are eager to hear how community bankers helped their constituents and learn what community banks need to continue to serve their communities.

It begins with the Capital Summit kickoff on April 27 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Eastern. That’s when key policymakers will address the summit, inviting community bankers to listen as they share their legislative and regulatory priorities, goals and initiatives with a focus on policies affecting the community banking industry and its customers. Past speakers have included Senate and House banking committee leaders, regulatory agency heads and political observers, among others.

Later in the week, ICBA and its 44 affiliated state community bank associations will be facilitating virtual meetings between community bankers and their members of Congress. It’s an opportunity to advocate for the ICBA legislative platform outlined in ICBA’s Feb. 1 open letter to Congress (see it at bit.ly/icbaagenda2021) and build support for enduring, bipartisan solutions that will strengthen community banks, their customers and their communities.

This includes pandemic relief legislation to address short-term economic weaknesses, as well as post-pandemic provisions to promote economic growth, job creation and a competitive landscape. On the pandemic front, ICBA will continue to advocate for legislation that includes renewing, refining and strengthening Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act programs like the PPP, capital and accounting relief, and appropriate tax relief.

Looking ahead to when the pandemic recedes and recovery begins, ICBA is advocating for longstanding policy priorities that would empower community banks to better serve those who depend on them while leveling the regulatory playing field.

Community bankers have always been their own best advocates. When a community banker shares a personal story … it has a real impact.

Community bank advocacy goals

ICBA staff will provide coaching and talking points to help community bankers make the most of virtual visits with members of Congress and their staff.

For example, congressional leaders need to know that community banks were responsible for making 60% of PPP loans, supporting the retention of more than 3.7 million employees. They also need to hear the real-life stories behind those loans—stories only community bankers and their customers can tell.

Community bankers have always been their own best advocates. When a community banker shares a personal story of how their bank helped a small business save jobs, worked to keep a family in their home or led initiatives to help their local community grow and thrive, it has a real impact.

These conversations allow community bankers to build relationships with those new to Congress while reinforcing existing relationships with returning members. This year, you won’t even have to leave home to do it.

There’s still time to register to join ICBA and fellow community bankers for the 2021 Capital Summit and help advocate for change that will ensure vibrant and resilient communities. Don’t miss this opportunity to hear directly from those in power and make the case for your industry.

ICBA Capital Summit: Stay up to date

For the latest information on confirmed speakers and to register, visit icba.org/capitalsummit

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