The government’s second business assistance program will be rolled out in the coming weeks, as soon as funding is made available to the Small Business Development Centre (SBDC), its executive director said yesterday.
Davinia Grant said funding for the new program – a portion of $55 million allocated this fiscal year to support small businesses – is on the way, based on her conversations with the Ministry of Finance.
“They’re doing everything within their power given the circumstances to make that happen. So, we expect to be able to say exactly when we will reopen the portal. Hopefully, we will be able to say that soon, but we’re waiting for the additional funding that we know is on the way,” she told Guardian Business yesterday.
“Our ability to open the new portal to get new clients in, they’re going to have to wait until the funding is available, but the existing clients on a regular basis, those clients are able to access their funding as we have the funding made available to us.”
The government’s initial support for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) adversely impacted by the economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic closed last month. The government paid out approximately $38 million to 514 applicants, however Grant said another $7 million has yet to be fully disbursed.
“I really want our clients to be patient with us, because we all know that we’re dealing with extenuating circumstances and we’re happy that the government has been able to prioritize giving us the funding to keep the program going. In terms of retiring the rest of the money for the first program, much of that will be done in short order as we are on a regular basis receiving funding with the government to complete that,” she said.
As for the new program, although many businesses may still need support following the first round of assistance, Grant said priority will be given to clients who have not been able to access any funding yet.
“There are some people who have been waiting and waiting and waiting for the portal to reopen. Some clients who were already in the portal had finally finished their applications, but by the time they finished their applications, we had already finished the program,” she said.
“So, basically, about 2,000 clients had completed the applications, 541 of them were approved, but there were 3,000 clients that started applications but only 2,000 completed applications. So, that’s 1,000 people already that are waiting to complete their applications and that doesn’t include the hundreds and hundreds of clients that were waiting to get access to onboard to the portal. So, I think I would say safely that priority will be given to the clients that were not able to access funding.”
The government has said that, given the uncertainty in the tourism industry, it is relying on small and medium-sized businesses to be the driving force of the COVID-19 economic recovery plan.