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 their money.
As for the business of convert-
ing those deposits into loans — and revenue — many of those same factors are holding some consumers back from borrowing, said those we spoke with, although many have pressed ahead with purchases of new cars, new homes, and vacation homes.
Meanwhile, a number of busi- nesses, still struggling to fully recover from the pandemic, are being cautious about moving ahead with expansions or new ventures. And for those that have the confidence to move forward, the current workforce crisis is keeping them from doing so.
Indeed, Worden said the cur- rent labor market is affecting activ- ity in commercial lending. “We have businesses that can’t take on all the jobs they want because they don’t have enough staff to get them done.”
Dan Moriarty says the pandemic changed people’s spending patterns, which may not be good for the overall economy.
 Moriarty agreed, but spoke
optimistically about the prospects for improvement when people return to the workforce in large numbers. “Once our businesses can hire the staff they need and expand their products and services, they may look to the banks to borrow and grow.”
The surge in deposits and frustrating inability to put much of them to work has been one of many stories to unfold during what has been a challenging — and very different — year for area banks.
They all played a key role in helping businesses apply for PPP loans when they became available last spring. During two rounds of PPP loan offerings, Moriarty said, Monson Savings processed 565 loans totaling nearly $50 million.
In the early days of the pandemic, qualifications for PPP loans includ- ed every small business that was affected by COVID-19. Tom Senecal, president and CEO of PeoplesBank, said many applied because they
“With all the uncertainty in the world, people understand that putting their money into a bank where their deposits are insured by the FDIC is one of the safest moves you can make.”
didn’t know if they were going to be impacted.
“There were many businesses that thought they were going to be hit
hard but really weren’t,” he noted, giving an example of construction companies that were closed early in the pandemic but were then desig- nated as essential and allowed to reopen.
Worden added that many companies that received PPP loans in the first round didn’t touch the money until it became clear their loan would be forgiven by the government. Once they figured out how to get loan forgiveness, they didn’t sit on the next round.
“We’ve had around 96% of our first- and second-round PPP loans forgiven with no denials,” he said. “The only ones who haven’t been for- given have all started the process.”
All the bankers who spoke with BusinessWest said they were grate- ful to process PPP loans for area businesses. Worden said the urgency to get the first-round applications done required an “all hands on deck” approach that brought in many outside the loan department. His story reflects similar efforts from the other banks.
Another dominant story during the pandemic was the real-estate boom, driven in part by record-low interest rates. Moriarty said activity on the buying and selling side has been brisk for some time. “We’ve seen a lot of activity where people are moving into a new house or buying a second home, whether it’s for vacation or an investment.”
brought a significant increase in people Deposits Continued on page 35
    The low interest rates have also
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