Vail Valley banks working to help their loan customers

Banks say the financial system is strong, and able to help with capital or other needs

Help is available The Vail Valley Partnership’s website has a page listing resources available for businesses during the COVID-19 virus outbreak.

This story has been corrected to replace “American National Bank” with “ANB Bank.”

Margaret Martinez has no desire to own a coffee shop. Or an auto shop or a restaurant employee’s home.

Martinez runs the Eagle Branch of Community Banks of Colorado. That bank, and others in the valley, is currently working with commercial and private customers on loans big and small. The loans have to be repaid, of course, but banks are working on adjusting terms to ensure that borrowers can get back on schedule when life returns to something more closely resembling normal.

Martinez said she and others at Community Banks have been spending a lot of time working to connect customers with state and federal resources, including loans and grants from the Small Business Administration.

Funds haven’t been released yet from some programs, including the brand new federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, but Martinez said it’s important for business owners to get in line now.

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Martinez likened the process to taking a ticket at a deli counter. When it’s your turn, you need to have that number, she said.

Working on a case-by-case basis

At Alpine Bank of Colorado, regional president Michael Brown said that institution is also working to steer customers toward outside resources. Federal programs are an important part of the efforts to help small businesses. But, he added, the Small Business Administration has 30 days to provide “guidance” on how to implement the new law.

The federal agency’s Economic Injury Disaster loan program is up and running, though.

In the meantime, Brown said Alpine Bank is working with loan customers on a case-by-case basis to delay current payments.

Skipping payments

At the local FirstBank branches, market president Ellen Moritz said that bank is working with its consumer loan customers. People who need some relief on their mortgages can skip between one and three payments, Moritz said. The bank is setting up a special number for those requests, Moritz said.

Business customers’ needs aren’t quite as simple, Moritz said. Business clients are urged to talk to their loan officers about both bank and Small Business Administration programs.

While some federal loan programs aren’t fully in place yet — particularly that for the new Paycheck Protection program — Moritz said FirstBank expects guidance in the next couple of days, and could be ready to write loans by the end of the week.

In a release, ANB Bank, which has a branch in Eagle, stated it is offering a three-month deferral of payments for all consumer,  commercial and other loans. All customers of that bank are eligible.

Different solutions for different borrowers

Martinez said all borrowers are different. A restaurant isn’t in the same position as an auto body shop, she said.

While solutions are different, everyone impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak has some of the same difficulties in making car, house or business payments.

“We’re going to see what the need is over the next three to six months,” Martinez said.

‘Unlike anything we’ve ever seen’

Brown said that unlike the international financial system collapse of 2007 and 2008, the system today is in a much better position. Brown said that between banks, states and the U.S. Federal Reserve, the system “is very strong, and able to provide capital.”

Brown noted that most U.S. adults have seen recessions and financial declines before.

“This is unlike anything we’ve ever seen (in living memory),” Brown said.

The speed of the economic slowdown is unique, he added, which makes response speed essential from banks and other institutions.

To that end, bankers everywhere are spending a lot of time on the phone and answering emails. And, while many bank lobbies are open to the public by appointment only right now, both Brown and Martinez said their banks are fully staffed right now.

Martinez said one thing her people won’t be doing for the foreseeable future is making collection calls.

“I know my clients, and I know who’s going to suffer,” Martinez said. “I don’t need to put more pressure on them.”

And, while no one knows how long the current virus outbreak and economic slowdown will last, Brown said he’s optimistic.

“I hope that within a few weeks, we can get back to something that resembles normalcy,” he said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at

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