Thursday, September 16, 2021

Forgiveness bill on hold

During the OBA Virtual Washington Visit, which concluded Thursday, bankers in attendance had a number of good meetings with members of the Oklahoma delegation.

One of those meetings was with Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla. 2), and it was excellent.

“Markwayne has been of incredible assistance to the Association and to the industry, especially during this COVID-19 crisis,” OBA President and CEO Roger Beverage said. “We asked (him) about (H.R. 7777) and the likelihood of its passage anytime soon.

“Rep. Mullin assured us he was supportive of our effort to get this bill through Congress. … as long as there’s a provision for auditing forgiveness applications at some point, but it’s not likely to happen until after the election. That’s not our preference, of course, but it does reflect the political reality the industry faces.”

In addition to discussing H.R. 7777, Rep. Mullin presented a fascinating overview of the upcoming election and some of the potential pitfalls that lie ahead.

“(Rep. Mullin) expressed some concerns about control of the Senate, simply because Republicans hold a higher number of the more vulnerable seats,” said OBA Chief Lobbyist and Director of Government Relations Adrian Beverage. “Overall, he expressed more positive views than negative ones. But I still question whether or what we might know the night the election is actually ‘over’ on Nov. 3.

“We are so very fortunate to have Markwayne representing Oklahoma in Congress. He’s very close to (Minority) Leader (Kevin) McCarthy and to the president. Regardless of what you may think about President Trump personally, he IS the president. In this business, you have to be able to accept all the help you can get, and for the banking industry, Markwayne has a significant voice in Congress.

“I also encourage bankers and everyone to keep Markwayne and his son, Jim, in their prayers for a speedy recovery. Jim was injured in January of this year while wrestling. He is still undergoing therapy and we’re all praying for him and for the congressman.”

Adrian Beverage also commended the great work by Megan McGuire and Jeremy Cowen, who made the adjustment to the Washington Visit’s new virtual format seamless.

“Megan and Jeremy deserve this public praise, and we’re so very blessed to have them on our staff,” Adrian Beverage said. “They went way above and beyond what’s normally expected of any employee, and member banks should know this ‘virtual’ effort could not have been pulled off without their dedication and effort.”

After the OBA’s meeting with Rep. Mullin, bankers met with the FDIC chairman and her key staff members, and also with Treasury and Small Business Administration officials to talk about the Paycheck Protection Program and the issue of forgiveness.

“Markwayne confirmed with us the intent of Congress was to have those loans – or grants as he called about them – forgiven,” Adrian Beverage said. “According to Rep. Mullin, Congress has and had at the time expectation these grants would be forgiven, subject to SBA audits. At the same time Thursday, Treasury Secretary (Steve) Mnuchin was testifying before the Senate Banking Committee about further streamlining the (PPP) forgiveness process.

“(Secretary) Mnuchin acknowledged additional legislation may be required to accomplish this objective, but urged the Committee to move forward. He also encouraged a re-authorization of the (PPP) Program to have access to and utilize the remaining $130 billion to make additional loans to small businesses that are continuing to have difficulty getting back on their feet.”

The ABA and the Alliance of State Bankers associations continue to call on lawmakers to pass two bills – S. 4117, and H.R. 7777 – before adjourning ahead of the November election. Both bills would forgive PPP loans of less than $150,000 upon the borrower’s completion of a simple, one-page forgiveness document.