PPP funds enable Ability KC to deliver services to persons with disabilities
This pandemic is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. We want a partner that can go the distance. We have been incredibly impressed with the responsiveness of our Commerce team. I cannot overstate how valuable it was to have Commerce as a strong partner in this process.
– Amy Castillo, CEO and Executive Director, Ability KC
When the Small Business Administration opened the portal for the first round of federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding in early April, applications flooded the system. Ability KC’s request was not among them.
“We absolutely saw the importance of the funds,” said Amy Castillo, CEO and executive director of the nonprofit, which provides educational, vocational and therapeutic services to more than 3,000 children and adults with disabilities each year. “But our first concern was the people we serve.”
“Even with COVID, people still have traumatic events and need their therapies,” added Sherry Early, Ability KC’s CFO. “When children are dealing with trauma or adults are recovering from a stroke, regression is a serious concern.”
Ability KC had begun making contingency plans with their local healthcare system partners in late February. Within weeks, it suspended in-person services, including its therapeutic preschool, while transitioning the therapeutic and employment staff at its six locations to work from home.
By late March, Ability KC had implemented telehealth services, enabling its full-time staff of 186 people to stay engaged with the individuals and families they serve. The nonprofit’s leadership – all working from home – could now focus on the PPP, which would be needed to keep their staff on the payroll. Within days of becoming available, however, the $349 billion in first round funding was depleted.
To be ready for the next round of PPP, Ability KC knew it needed help. Members of its board suggested reaching out to Commerce Bank, whose trust division managed foundation funds that benefited the nonprofit.
“Sherry and I had questions about the application and the process, and we needed a banking partner that was as committed to the community as we are to help us,” said Castillo. “Commerce helped us feel comfortable as they guided us through the process.”
“Commerce was a great fit,” added Early. “They immediately understood the challenges that nonprofits like ours are facing during this difficult time. They gave informed responses to our questions and great advice on what to consider as we completed the application.”
On the first day of the second round of PPP funding, Ability KC’s application was ready to submit. Within days, the application was approved and funds were transferred to Ability KC, before being immediately dispersed to pay staff salaries.
“A week later, a staff member thanked me and told me that she had paid her mortgage that day because of Ability KC’s support,” said Early. “And we couldn’t have done that without Commerce’s support.”
“No matter what their mission is, nonprofits cannot do it alone,” noted Castillo. “Our success depends on critical partners like Commerce that are invested in the Kansas City community. The bank’s help with our PPP application not only helped ensure the livelihood of the people we employ, but also the thousands of people who depend on our services.”
“It took a lot of hands to redesign a majority of our services to accommodate the health and safety needs of our staff and clients,” said Castillo. “The PPP funding allows our staff to do their jobs, both remotely and as we transition back into the workplace.”