BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – The COVID-19 crisis has brought about a spike in unemployment figures and an uncertain future for the economy, but Kern County banks remain open.
Bakersfield-based Valley Republic Bank leaders said they are taking measures now to look after Kern’s economy and assist those who may be struggling.
The lobby of the bank on California Avenue appears empty, but CEO Geraud Smith and Chairman of the Board Gene Voiland do not want that to fool you; more than half of the bank’s employees now work from home, and many worked all of last weekend.
“Nobody ever likes to deal with a crisis like this, but I think we’re as prepared as we can be,” Voiland said.
Customers can still use the bank’s drive-through service, but if they would prefer to do banking virtually, that is encouraged.
“We’re able to conduct all of our traditional business right now electrically,” Smith stated. “We have the ability to open new checking accounts, new depository accounts electronically, so we have the ability to do 100 percent of our banking business right now,” he continued.
Founded 11 years ago in Bakersfield, this bank, in particular, operates with a focus on kern’s economy, according to its executives.
“We have a dedicated oil and gas group, we have a dedicated agriculture group, so we are monitoring the changes in every sector that we serve here,” Smith noted.
Valley Republic is not the only local bank operating during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mission bank announced it, too, is looking to help people during this time.
The bank is participating in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Nationally, the program authorizes up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses to pay their employees during the COVID-19 crisis.
Valley republic also is participating in the program, and is in constant communication with the offices of congressman Kevin McCarthy McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) and State Sen. Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield). Now, the bank is looking towards the future with an emphasis on the people of Kern.
“We’re going to deal with them one on one,” said Voiland. “We’re going to give them the best service and giver everybody the best chance to come through this.”
If you’d like to get in touch with these banks, we’ve posted contact information below.
Local credit unions also say they’re helping out.
Strata, for one, says its members can conduct banking electronically, including loans, money transfers, and check deposits.
As part of the credit union’s emergency relief program, Strata is allowing members up to three months forbearance on their first mortgages. They are also allowing up to two skip payments on credit card bills between April and July, and so far, they issued 39 emergency loans so far totaling $94,000.
“I just want our members to know we’re here for them, supporting them in any avenue that we can,” said Strata Credit Union CEO Brandon Ivie. “We’re providing different relief options for them depending on their needs…Obviously we’ve seen a lot of people lose their jobs, but we’re here for them,” he continued.
Like Strata, the Valley Strong Credit Union also remains open and is fully functioning on mobile devices and online.
Six of the branches’s lobbies and drive-up services are open with added protections. They include the following branches:
Delano, Downtown Bakersfield, Mt. Vernon, River Run, Panama, and Tehachapi
Four of the branches have transitioned to drive-up only. They include:
Artisan, Buena Vista, Ming, and Town & Country
All drive-up services are now open one hour early, beginning at 8 a.m.
“Obviously we’re trying to find the balance between helping those who bank with us as well as the community at large,” said Michael George, senior vice president with Valley Strong Credit Union. “[We’re also] maintaining the safety of those who bank with us and our team members. So it’s a balancing act but we think we’re finding a good medium with both of those elements,” he continued.
Contact information for each credit union.