The Small Business Development Centre (SBDC) has processed nearly $36 million in business continuity loans and grants to 508 small businesses as part of the government’s special COVID-19 response, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced yesterday as he wrapped up debate on the 2020/2021 annual budget.
Minnis said the Business Continuity Program has allowed those small businesses and entrepreneurs to keep their doors open and to maintain some 3,900 employees on their payrolls.
“Many of these small businesses would have closed and laid off or terminated staff without this direct support from the government,” the prime minister said.
He also lauded employers who made special arrangements to keep their staff during these uncertain economic times.
“There are many employers who should be commended for going above and beyond to continue salary payments or other forms of support to employees, even as businesses were shuttered and employees had no work. The House might recall my passionate call for employers to share the sacrifice. Many businesses responded,” he said.
“We know it is not easy to maintain payroll, to sustain commercial rent payments or mortgages and other operating expenses with no income. That is why my government is providing ongoing payroll support through its tax credit and deferral program. As the economy reopens, this program will allow businesses to hold on to the cash they have earmarked to settle tax obligations. Businesses can redirect the money from the tax credits and deferrals to pay non-executive staff payroll.”
The government has allocated $55 million in the upcoming fiscal year to support micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), $25 million of which will come in the form of a loan guarantee from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
“This is support to the proverbial ‘small man’ – those businesses who could not get funding from the commercial banks. More cash for feeding programs; more cash for unemployment assistance; more cash for small businesses. This is a matter of social justice and we are doing so at historic levels in our country to meet an historic challenge,” Minnis said about the government’s economic and social support initiatives.
“We are not about talk on our side, Mr. Speaker. We leave the self-serving and idle rhetoric to the Opposition. We are about action, we are in the business of getting the people’s business done.
“For Bahamian entrepreneurs and small businesses, we have budgeted an unprecedented $55 million in support. We recognize that for many of them, they will continue to need grants and loans to help them weather one of the worst economic periods ever in the history of The Bahamas.
“We also want to make sure that we are providing sufficient allocation for the new businesses and strategies that will emerge in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
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.