Community bankers have many reasons to be pessimistic about 2009. A recessionary economy, a sagging commercial real estate market and deteriorating housing and construction sectors are just some of the hurdles. In addition, bankers face the added pressure of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation raising the risk-based assessment rates in order to restore the Deposit Insurance Fund (DIF).

Many in the industry - especially those at smaller institutions - have bristled at the ruling, arguing the agency is sapping their ability to lend at a critical juncture, says Karen Thomas, evp of government relations for the Independent Community Bankers of America. "One of our greatest concerns is that the higher premiums will take money out of local communities," she says. "In other words, the banks will have less money to lend and it's critical at this time in the economic cycle to make sure that banks keep lending in order to promote economic activity."

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