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Since the very first days of the COVID-19 pandemic, First Interstate Bank has dedicated itself to helping the Sheridan community recover from this once-in-a-century economic crisis. After all, this is where the bank’s roots are. First Interstate was founded here in 1968, and the values and support it has received from neighbors over the years have helped the company become the strong, trusted community bank it is today.

First Interstate’s dedication to Sheridan was especially critical this past year with the coronavirus turning so many of our lives upside down. Local branches quickly adapted to the “new normal,” implementing safety measures, social distancing guidelines and remote work options to keep everyone safe while remaining keenly focused on providing the same high level of client service.

With the local economy facing an unforeseeable set of challenges, First Interstate dove in to help. The bank innovated “on the fly” to ensure it would be positioned to provide quick access to federal assistance offered via the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), developing more efficient processes to fund loans as quickly as possible. Team members devoted countless hours to make this happen, often working through the night to get systems in place. Since the start of PPP, First Interstate’s team helped more than 390 small businesses in the Sheridan community get the emergency funding they needed.

First Interstate has also made sure its personal banking clients have support every step of the way. In the early days of coronavirus, joblessness surged. This left many homeowners wondering how they were going to pay their mortgages. First Interstate stepped in, offering those affected by COVID-19 a 90-day forbearance on their mortgage. This kind of help wasn’t limited to homeowners; the bank provided the same 90-day payment deferral or an interest-only repayment option for personal loans. These options allowed many in the community to financially get back on their feet when times were toughest.

Underscoring the bank’s commitment to Sheridan, and despite an uncertain economic environment, First Interstate donated nearly $100,000 to local community causes and nonprofit organizations in the past 12 months. This includes organizations that care for the neediest among us including a broad cross section of Sheridan County nonprofits.

A year later, as Wyoming emerges from the pandemic, First Interstate is taking on a new focus — helping to make Sheridan’s economy stronger than ever.

With the deadline for the newest round of PPP loans just extended to May 31, First Interstate is working diligently to get money into the hands of Sheridan’s small businesses. These businesses — restaurants, dry cleaners, grocery stores and shops — are the cornerstone of the economy and the community. To ensure a bright future for Sheridan’s local economy, First Interstate remains dedicated to providing business owners with the financial support needed to keep them on the path to recovery.

The right banking partner can make sure small business owners and entrepreneurs have what they need to withstand the pandemic’s ongoing disruption. This is why community banks, like First Interstate, are so important. Community banks bring firsthand knowledge of the market to all client interactions, helping to ensure money stays local and flows through the community to create a vibrant, protected economy.

It is true that COVID-19 has been a significant economic challenge for Wyoming, but we are better positioned than many expected at the beginning of the crisis. As market conditions continue to improve and we put the pandemic behind us, regional businesses should continue to grow and anchor our communities.

Dave Bruni is regional president of Wyoming and South Dakota for First Interstate Bank. He can be reached at Dave.Bruni@fib.com. For more information, visit www.firstinterstate.com.

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