By Jon King /

One local financial institution says it is doing what it can to assist area businesses and residents during the COVID-19 shutdown.

First National Bank in Howell says as of Monday, they were able to assist nearly 500 small businesses in the Livingston County area obtain more than $59 million dollars through the federal Paycheck Protection Program. President and CEO Ron Long says that many of those businesses were not even among their current customers, but turned to First National for assistance.

Long tells WHMI that there were a variety of factors that made it difficult for many to try and access those funds. "Some financial institutions didn't necessarily choose to participate in the program, or participated later in the process. The whole PPP program was rolled out in a very rapid manner and there were multiple changes made to the parameters being able to participate in the program. So it was just a challenging process all the way around and it took a lot of energy for a financial institution to be able to successfully take care of their customers."

Long says First National also worked with over 200 Livingston County families and businesses to provide some financial breathing room by deferring their monthly loan payments for the next few months.

Meanwhile, Long says the planned merger with The Bank of Ann Arbor remains on track, despite the economic shutdown. He says the papers have been filed, and that while there may be a delay in the process, at this point it is still moving forward.