Of the 164 branches, Popular operates 114 branches, 94 of which have drive-thru windows.
Banco Popular announced the approval and disbursement of the first loans granted by the institution under the paycheck protection program established by the Law on Aid, Relief and Economic Security against Coronaviruses (CARES) .
The program went into effect on April 3 and will run until June 30. Popular on Friday approved some $ 2.6 million in loans and disbursed part of the funds the same day, bank officials said.
US Small Business Administration Backed Loans provide loans to help businesses cover salary expenses, interest on mortgage payments, lease obligations, and profits during the COVID-19 emergency.
“We are committed to helping our clients access these emergency funds as quickly and easily as possible,” said Eli Sepulveda, executive vice president of the bank’s commercial credit group.
To respond to the high volume of inquiries and applications, the institution has created a dedicated tab on its website that includes program information and an online form to request information. The bank also confirmed that it will soon activate a digital tool through which customers can complete their application online.
The Paycheque Protection Program is a $ 349 billion emergency loan program that provides forgivable loans of up to $ 10 million to small businesses in financial difficulty due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. The loans have a fixed interest rate of 1% and a term of two years.
The loans, which will be administered locally by a nationwide network of banks and credit unions, are designed to maintain the viability of millions of small businesses as they struggle to keep up with payrolls and daily operating expenses.
Popular invests $ 2 million in technology
In an interview with this outlet, the CEO of Popular Inc., Ignacio lvarez, confirmed that the bank had to make a number of operational adjustments to continue to provide services during the lockdown and curfew measures in place in Puerto Rico to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Banks and other financial institutions are among the essential services allowed to operate during the lockdown.
“When it started, we thought we could run our operations pretty much as usual with some minor adjustments, such as reducing our hours. But we realized that as the pandemic worsened, we had to make big changes, ”he said, mentioning that he tried to get fewer customers to visit the bank’s branches.
The bank encouraged customers to use all of Banco Popular’s digital tools and increased the amount customers can withdraw at ATMs and deposit using smartphones.
Of the 164 branches, Popular operates 114 branches, 94 of which have drive-thru windows. Lobbies are closed, but Popular will serve customers requiring special services by appointment only.
“Customers are cooperating. For the most part, they would rather queue at the vehicle window than get sick on entering a lobby, ”said lvarez.
As for its employee base, Popular has invested $ 2 million to purchase hardware, including some 1,500 laptops, and software licenses to enable remote operations, he added.
“We had to keep our support systems running, our technology team increased the number of people who could work from home tenfold. Most of the support staff work from home, ”he said of the 4,000 people working remotely. Popular has 7,000 employees in Puerto Rico.