Baker Boyer Bank is responding to the federal government shutdown with a new personal loan program for furloughed employees.

On what is the first official payday most of the estimated 800,000 federal employees will miss since the furlough began Dec. 21, Baker Boyer today rolls out its initiative to offer assistance.

The “We’ve Got Your Back Program” extends unsecure credit based on one month’s net pay, up to $10,000, with simplified qualifying terms, the Walla Walla-based bank announced. The move puts the community bank in the company of a number of other businesses offering relief to those affected by the shutdown.

The program is designed to help affected federal workers make payments on bills such as mortgages, child care, food and other essentials, Baker Boyer President and CEO Mark Kajita said.

“Having been a child of parents who worked as federal employees, I know how financially difficult times can get when there is a federal government shutdown,” he said in an announcement.

The service is available to those within the geographic footprint of Baker Boyer (Walla Walla Valley, Columbia Basin and Yakima Valley) who are either on furlough, working without pay or have experienced direct financial impact from lack of payroll income. Applicants can contact the bank for details on the program.

Kajita said Friday this was a strategy developed after the President Trump’s live TV address Tuesday. A team of about 15 people at the bank, Washington’s oldest, independently owned community bank, put a program together within 24 hours.

“Management of the bank has been watching the unfolding drama on the government shutdown for a while. We hadn’t imagined that the shutdown would last as long as it has,” Kajita said. “We realized that federal employees would be missing an entire paycheck starting this week, and bills were still needing to be paid.”

Kajita said lending unsecured credit was the easiest and fastest way to create the program while also having the fewest hurdles possible to help.

“We knew there would be risk to the bank, but we are willing to take that risk for our communities,” he said.

Today marks the 21st day of the government shutdown. That period ties with the previous 21-day record under the Clinton Administration that started Dec. 15, 1995. That is the longest gap in government funding in 43 years.

A number of businesses have presented various programs offering assistance. Among them are wireless providers AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon, and creditors and other financial institutions, including Bank of America, Chase and Wells Fargo.

Joining them is part of the “beauty of having a strong community bank in your locality,” Kajita said.

“Decisions don’t have to get approval from multiple layers. Baker Boyer saw the immediate need and could react immediately for the community,” he said. “I now challenge all other banks to do the same for their own communities.”

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at 509-526-8321, vickihillhouse@wwub.com or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/VickiHillhouse.

Vicki covers business and economic development, including tourism, the Port of Walla Walla and the Strictly Business column, as well as features. She has been reporting for the Union-Bulletin since late 2001.

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