When the first novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) case hit in 2020, uncertainty plagued the nation. Local businesses began to shutter, hospitals were overwhelmed, schools closed, and families were left to rebuild their lives in uncertainty and isolation. Our neighbors, consumers and employees were directly impacted; the normalcy of lives forever transformed. Yet, what came next was a force of resiliency, community, strength and innovation.
For many businesses, both local and across the nation, this was the first time they had to close their doors, threatening the livelihood of so many hardworking families. Virtually overnight, small businesses, many of which had been built over generations, found themselves unsure of their ability to survive through the pandemic. Simultaneously at Cross River, employees and their families were readjusting their lives, caring for loved ones and learning how to adapt to Zoom – the new virtual world.
For Cross River, the concept of community is built into our DNA. Cross River was born in Teaneck, and raised in Fort Lee, and we are successful because of the tireless support we’ve received from the State of New Jersey. More than twelve years later Cross River still calls New Jersey home and will continue to do so for many years to come.
When Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (Cares) Act in March, we quickly realized that Cross River could play a critical role in our community and the nation’s recovery. Working countless hours, many overnight, impassioned employees from throughout the organization began to cultivate plans and build a platform to process Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans—financial lifelines to small businesses in need. In less than 10 days, a platform was built and partnerships were created.
As businesses looked to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to keep the lights on and doors open, many found themselves turned away by larger banking institutions. As safety and health concerns continued to prevent businesses from operating at full capacity, it became exceedingly crucial to find solutions that provided access to PPP. Our goal was to process loans for any qualified business safely and efficiently.
For Cross River, the solution was simple: combine the trust and reliability of a community bank with the innovative offerings of a technology company to assist as many small businesses as possible. From a technology standpoint, Cross River capitalized on proprietary technology by utilizing API integration to enable technology partners to plug into our core system to expand access to PPP loans. Our internal capabilities provided a seamless process to create an efficient portal for borrowers to apply and receive their PPP loan—a true financial lifeline. This solution did not come without challenges; the program rules were constantly evolving, and there were countless hurdles and unanswered questions. But working together with the SBA, community partners and local officials we managed to build a successful program.
Throughout the lifespan of PPP, Cross River provided nearly 200,000 businesses with the funds they needed to keep their doors open. We loaned more than $6.5 billion with less than 100 employees dedicated to the effort while the biggest banks in the country required thousands. This tech forward approach saved nearly one million jobs across the country, reaching the smallest and most vulnerable businesses. The foundation we built and solidified in New Jersey enabled us not only to help those in our backyard, but to serve communities across the nation.
True to our commitment of playing an active role in our home state and local community, Cross River consistently worked with elected officials to offer New Jersey residents additional tools they needed to weather the economic storm. Whether providing consistent updates on government programs, funding PPP loans or hosting financial literacy webinars, we knew that by collaborating with our local leaders we could get through these trying times.
At our core, the mission has always been to adopt a forward-thinking approach to offer modernized services and innovative products. This mindset, coupled with our agility, enabled us to quickly become one of the top PPP lenders in the country, helping small businesses in every state. Innovation was key, but collaboration took us over the finish line. Cross River will continue to serve as a resource and lifeline to the smallest businesses, not only in our backyard, but for all those in need. The driving force here was the sense of urgency from the entire Cross River team and the collaborative energy we utilized when facing this toughest challenge yet. As we jump into 2021 and the next round of PPP, we are eager to continue to work with our community partners, friends and neighbors who are our greatest source of strength and support.
Submitted by Cross River