Athens and Oconee-area businesses have received over $50 million in payroll protection program loans from Oconee State Bank, said Chief Lending Officer Philip Bernardi. 

“The most rewarding thing for us as bankers is when we can mark the lives of the business owners, and hearing that they can keep their employees on payroll through PPP,” Bernardi said. 

OSB Vice President of Marketing Deesha Hagwood considered the loans a vital tool for local businesses. 

“For some businesses, it’s been the lifeblood, and they would’ve shut their doors if not for the program,” she said.

A variety of businesses have benefited from the program, such as Strickland’s Restaurant near Bogart. 

“This program has allowed me to maintain my business with normal operating hours and maintain all my employees,” owner Mike Strickland said in an OSB testimonial video. “This has been a great help to us.” 

Bernardi elaborated that he and the other bank employees worked long days and weekends to efficiently process PPP applications. 

“I can’t say enough to have folks who knew that we were fighting for business owners in our local communities and knowing that our work was so impactful to keep those business doors open,” he said. 

He elaborated that community banks like OSB have been particularly helpful because of their locations. 

“We’re in the communities that we serve, and being able to be responsive to the communities’ needs, we view it as closest to the location,” he said. “It gives you a context...to be able to know a business, speak to the business owner and turn it around quickly.”

In related news, Oconee State Bank has reopened its main office, Bogart and Gwinnett lobbies with normal business hours. The Butler’s Crossing Financial Center will continue to operate as drive-thru only through June 30. Customers age 65 or older can access the bank from 8-9 a.m. before it opens to the general public. 

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