Small Business Relief Programs

Small Business Relief Programs

Bill Bickle

Bill Bickle, Chief Credit Officer

Small businesses have been particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 health crisis and many businesses (particularly restaurants and bars) continue to face operating restrictions, such as those announced this week as Montana works to slow down COVID infection rates.

To help address the financial stress, Stockman Bank has been busy helping our Montana small business customers access a number of relief programs designed to help impacted businesses keep their doors open and their people employed. The following programs are part of The CARES Act, (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act).

Woman in mask in front of restaurant

Small businesses hard hit by COVID-19

Montana Board of Investments (MBOI) Loan Deferment Program

This loan program helps eligible Montana businesses who have suffered at least a 15% reduction of gross revenues due to COVID-19. Our customers received $14.5 million of assistance through this program. Overall, these customers received 31% of the total assistance provided by the MBOI and were the largest group to benefit from this program.

The Montana Working Capital Program

Also facilitated through the MBOI, this program helps Montana businesses impacted by COVID-19 to access grant funds to supplement working capital loans made by eligible lenders. Our customers received $6.5 million in principal grants. This was 28% of the total assistance provided by the MBOI, and our customers were the second largest group to benefit from this program.

Restaurant Open for Take Out

Restaurant Open for Take Out

Paycheck Protection Program

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) provided 100% SBA guaranteed loans to help small businesses keep their workers on the payroll. We originated 3,278 PPP loans and advanced nearly $312 million in PPP loans to Montana businesses. The bank’s lenders are now assisting our customers with the “loan forgiveness” phase of the program.

Over our nearly 70-year history, Stockman Bank has worked to ensure that our Montana farmers, ranchers and small businesses owners continue to grow and be successful. Entrepreneurship and small business is the backbone of our state. If your business is continuing to face challenges due to the pandemic, call your local Stockman Bank to make an appointment. We may be able to help.

On behalf of all of us at Stockman Bank, best wishes for a happy and safe Thanksgiving holiday.

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Stimulus Check

Economic Stimulus Programs and Fraud – What Business Owners Should Know

Due to the availability of emergency assistance programs provided by the Small Business Administration in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, there has been a surge of fraud schemes attempting to obtain personally identifiable information (PII). These scammers impersonate the SBA and its Office of Disaster Assistance through grant fraud, loan fraud and phishing. The Small Business Administration has expressed concern about scam emails targeting applicants of the Economic Disaster Loan Program and Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), where scammers attempt to steal personally identifiable information through third party platforms.

If you, like many other business owners, have interest in taking advantage of recent financial relief programs, look at these tips provided by the SBA regarding grants, loans and phishing to avoid being subject to fraud schemes.

Person on a laptop looking at a login screen

Watch Out for Phony Emails Asking for Your Information

Any email communication from the SBA comes from accounts ending in, and nothing more. Also be aware of emails using the SBA logo in phishing emails and schemes. The presence of an SBA logo on a webpage or email does not guarantee the information is accurate or endorsed by the SBA.

Grants – The SBA does not initiate contact for 7a, Disaster Loans, or Grants

If you are proactively contacted by someone claiming to be from the SBA, suspect fraud.

Government Employees Do Not Charge for Recovery Assistance

The SBA and federal agencies providing recover assistance will never ask for a fee or payment to apply for financial assistance. What to watch out for:

  • Grant applicationNever provide your full name, date of birth, social security number, address, phone numbers, email addresses, case numbers or any other PII in response to third-party emails.
  • Loan applicants who receive email correspondence asking for personally identifiable information are cautioned to ensure application numbers referenced are consistent with your actual application number.
  • Do not open links or attachments, which are often placed in fraudulent emails.

Loans – Be aware of upfront payments and high interest rates

If you are contacted by someone promising to get approval of an SBA loan but requires any payment up front or offers a high interest bridge loan, suspect fraud. Additionally, SBA limits the fees a broker can charge a borrower to 3% for loans $50,000 or less and 2% for loans $50,0-00 to $1,000,000 with an additional .25% on amounts over $1,000,000. Any attempt to charge more than this could indicate fraud.

The best practice for protecting yourself and your business is to be weary of who you give your information to. Be vigilant when pursuing financial assistance and protect personal and business information with the highest of importance. If you suspect you are a target of fraudulent schemes connected to the SBA, you can report it online at, or contact your local Stockman Bank for more information on what to do.

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Storefront during snow storm

Ready, Set, Start Your Business!

Storefront during snow stormAs we celebrate Montana businesses this month on social media, we want to shine a light on Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) and the important work they do for small businesses across the nation. Under the guise of the Small Business Administration (SBA), there are ten SBDC regional centers across Montana. For individuals that are looking to start a business or grow an existing one, the SBDC network is the best place to start.

Bear Paw Development Corporation

In Havre, the Bear Paw Development Corporation is a host agency for SBDC, and their region includes Hill, Blaine, Liberty, Chouteau and Phillips Counties, as well as the Rocky Boy’s and Fort Belknap Indian Reservations. They provide confidential, no-cost, step-by-step assistance in developing business plans, analyzing cash flow projections and financials, along with many other services designed to meet the specific needs of small businesses in northern Montana.  They also assist clients with their business accounting needs, including individual and group sessions using QuickBooks software. Other trainings which are usually tailored to the needs of each community or business are also offered.

The SBDC at Bear Paw Development also serves as the Native American Business Advisor for the Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation, providing entrepreneurial training and business counseling services for members of the Chippewa Cree Tribe.

Increase in Requests for Assistance

Paul Tuss

Paul Tuss, Executive Director for Bear Paw Development Corporation

According to Paul Tuss, Executive Director for Bear Paw Development Corporation, in the past several months they have seen a sizable increase in requests for assistance. This was due in part, to area businesses reaching out for assistance with Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) applications that are overseen by the Small Business Administration (SBA) due to COVID-19. And this year alone, they have sponsored 5 small business training sessions in which over 60 individuals from Bear Paw’s five-county region participated to strengthen their entrepreneurial skills, and directly assisted with 5 new business start-ups or acquisitions.

“Bear Paw Development has been serving the business counseling needs of northern Montana for nearly 30 years and we know our efforts continue to make a positive difference for entrepreneurs in our very rural region,” said Paul Tuss, Executive Director.  “The SBDC is an absolutely critical partner in allowing us to deliver professional, confidential, no-cost advising to existing business owners as well as start-up entrepreneurs.

Joe LaPlante is the SBDC Director at Bear Paw Development and can be reached at 406-265-9226 or by email at He is a Certified Economic Development Finance Professional, an Accredited Small Business Consultant and has served as SBDC Director at Bear Paw for 14 years.

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Field of Flags

Do you have a hero in your life?

By Misty Wittman, Personal Banking Officer

Most of us have someone in our lives that we look up to or consider a hero. Sometimes, it is difficult to honor and show them how truly blessed we are to have known them. As we celebrate Veterans Day, it’s important to recognize our military and first responders who have put their lives on the line to keep us safe.

I volunteer with the Laurel Exchange Club. We hold an annual event, Field of Flags in September at South School in Laurel, to honor these individuals. It is a place where they can share their stories and start the healing process of loss or injury. 1,000 six-foot flags flown in a uniform formation will take your breath away. The flags are displayed to honor those heroes in our lives.

The emotions I have about this event are indescribable. I have always supported our military and first responders and have the utmost respect for them. I want to share some of the stories that I have heard on my journey as a volunteer for Field of Flags.

Cecil Westerbur

Cecil Westerbur

Cecil Westerbur

Cecil Westerbur was 93 in 2018 during the first Laurel Exchange Club Healing Field. He was beside himself when he saw the flags flying in the wind and had to come see them. I sat and spoke to Cecil for some time just talking about life. Cecil is a World War II Vet and enlisted in the Military as soon as he could.  He said he always knew that he wanted to serve his country. He told me he had tried to enlist when he was 16 and they would not let him. When he was finally able to join, he said he had gone all around the world several times. He had been to every base both internationally and here in the United States.

Bo Reichenbach

Bo Reichenbach

Bo Reichenbach

Bo Reichenbach was a guest speaker at the first annual Healing Field in 2018 . He is a U.S. Navy Seal  that was deployed to Afghanistan in January of 2012. He was deployed about 7 months when he was out on patrol and stepped on a IUD. He is now a double amputee.  Bo spoke about his struggles and over coming them. He said his family was a huge motivation for him to continue living his life and moving forward.

LT. William Cooper

LT. William Cooper

LT. William Cooper

LT. William Cooper donated his time to come and speak to Laurel grade school kids about what it means to be a hero and educate them about 9/11. LT. Cooper was only 17 when the towers were hit. After the impact that this event had on our country, he knew he wanted to join the military. He has been serving our country ever since.

Chris Grudzinski

Chris Grudzinski

Chris Grudzinski

Chris Grudzinski was another one of our speakers who enlisted in the military and had been injured when he was deployed. He and his wife founded Montana Veterans Meat Locker, a non-profit organization, which provides professionally processed wild and domestic meat for Veterans and their family.

9/11 Crew Member Patch

9/11 Crew Member Presents his Patch

At the last Healing Field, a 9/11 crew member came to the field. He presented his patch from New York to the Laurel Exchange Club. The patch had been locked away since 2001. He expressed his gratitude for this event and felt compelled to share a little piece of history. The club framed the patch and will display it at the next Field of Flags.

These are just a few of the stories that make this event so important to me. Heroes come in many different packages, people who serve our country, the first responders and volunteers who are selfless with their time. All heroes in your life are just as important as the next and this event, along with Veterans Day, is a great way to honor all of them.

Bill Coffee

Moving Montana Forward

Bill Coffee

Bill Coffee

As we continue to navigate the challenges of the COVID health crisis, we need to keep moving forward, one step at a time. A good place to start is supporting local business. When we help our local businesses move forward, we move our communities forward, which then moves Montana forward.

During the month of November, we will be celebrating small businesses across the state. At Stockman, every Saturday is Small Business Saturday!

Here are some financial tips from Bill Coffee to help small businesses as they work to move forward.

  1. First and foremost, don’t just automatically run out and borrow as much as you can. The State of Montana, US Small Business Administration and other agencies have helpful programs. However, it may not be best for your situation to borrow the maximum from each eligible program. Make sure you understand the parameters (eligibility, costs, payback/forgiveness, reporting/monitoring, etc.) and your anticipated use of the funds.
  2. Give serious thought, with realistic expectations, to how long it will take you to get back to pre-COVID levels. I believe it will take most small businesses a year from now to get back to these levels. Some will never get back to pre-COVID levels.
  3. Do strategic planning about your business needs. Don’t just go back to what you were previously doing. Plan how your business will operate during this restart period and then the next phase after restart (it may be one step forward one step back). You will need to scale your business, plan your budget, inventory, work force, and other aspects accordingly. Unfortunately, it is not, and will not, just be business as usual. Many business models are permanently changed.
  4. Flexibility and nimbleness are key. Change continues to come quickly. Some current trends, such as working and shopping from home, are becoming more long-term.  Being positioned and prepared to adjust to changes that can occur instantly has never been more important. Make sure you’ve got not only a Plan A but also a Plan B and a Plan C for several possible scenarios.
  5. After this thorough soul searching, planning and projecting, contact your banker to discuss the available options. Focus on your specific needs and what you anticipate the future holds.
  6. At Stockman Bank, we have cash management tools and lending products available to make you more efficient. Stockman’s uniquely Montana focused services allow you additional time to be strategic, so you can focus, plan and prepare for what lies ahead. And for your personal banking needs, our robust online platform provides free tools for helping you budget and manage your finances, cashflow and credit score.

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