May 12, 2020

When some rivertowns businesses wracked by the coronavirus pandemic applied to their banks for loans from the federal Payroll Protection Program, they found a cold shoulder rather than a helping hand.

Despite some having longtime relationships at their banks—including some of the nation’s largest—that wasn’t enough to get their loan application processed.

Enter Sunnyside Federal Savings and Loan, the small community bank that has long been an Irvington institution. The federal Small Business Administration had listed Sunnyside, among other small community banks in the Hudson Valley, as an approved SBA lender loan processor for the PPP.

However, Sunnyside President and CEO Tim Sullivan was not waiting for the phone to ring. “On the first day when the PPP came out, we called our customers and tried to get a sense for how they were doing and whether they would be interested in the program,” Sullivan said. “We then reached out to small businesses that weren’t customers, people who weren’t affiliated with the bank, but we wanted them to have [the PPP].”

Sullivan estimates Sunnyside will eventually process 90 to 100 PPP loans for businesses employing a total of 750 to 800 people. Loans range from under $10,000 to as much as $800,000.

“Community banks are the whole key to this,” said Robert Reilly, an Irvington architect who got a loan from Sunnyside. “They know the people. They’re the local banks.”

The Payroll Protection Program was viewed as a lifeline for small businesses whose revenue had all but dried up when New York went on lockdown in March. The loans are made by the lending banks and guaranteed by the Small Business Administration. Businesses can secure a loan, which will be forgiven if at least 75% is used for salaries and the balance is used for items like rent, mortgages and utilities. There are no fees or collateral attached to the loans, which have a 1 percent interest if a company reduces headcount or wages.

The initial $349 billion allocated for the PPP was depleted within two weeks. Congress then allocated another $310 billion.

Sullivan wasted no time leaning into the PPP, and Diane Cricchio is glad he did.

Cricchio runs Timeline Video in Irvington, a video production company with three employees. She had been banking at Wells Fargo for 26 years, but her banker there was unable to help. Instead, she went to Sunnyside.

“I took a chance and called [Tim] on a Friday. What was so impressive, he called me back on a Sunday morning and apologized for calling me on Sunday. The loan was approved soon afterwards,” Cricchio said. “It mattered little to him that I wasn’t a customer. He was going to handle his current customer base and then handle the people in the village, so we would still be a village that had businesses.”

Cricchio now has a checking account at Sunnyside.

Julia McCue, owner of Horsefeathers in Tarrytown, had a similar experience with her restaurant’s bank of 40 years, who she asked not to name. Her lawyer had mentioned Sunnyside to her, but Sullivan got to her first, “which was awesome,” McCue said. “I can’t even tell you the relief that I had that someone cared.”

And McCue also got a Sunday call from Sullivan, although hers was at night.

For Sullivan, the weekends and long hours were as much about providing a service as it was understanding what these businesses were up against. After all, Sunnyside is a small business itself, with just 14 employees.

“It’s a busy time for us,” he said, “but people need the money.”


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