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Govt to begin $20M small business loan program tomorrow

The Nassau Guardian March 24, 2020

Chester Robards

The Access Accelerator/Small Business Development Centre (SBDC) will soon begin distributing the $20 million allocated to it for small businesses impacted economically by the country’s shutdown because of coronavirus (COVID-19), according to a press statement from the SBDC.

The Business Continuity Loan Program officially launches on Wednesday.

The program will require those eligible to agree to retain 51 percent of their staff and have their credit information shared with the credit bureau and other banking and financial institutions.

“It will provide loans to small businesses – facilitated through partnerships with financial institutions – ranging from $5,000 to $300,000 to cover operating costs,” the statement noted.

“The funds will go toward paying salaries, rent, insurance, utilities and inventory/supplies. Through the initiative, approved loans will require no payments for four months.”

The SBDC is also advocating on behalf of small businesses for the deferral of existing loan payments for entrepreneurs who already have loans with lending institutions.

“Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) has already publicly pledged to defer loan payments for their clients for three months; CIBC FirstCaribbean is guaranteeing six months of deferred payments for their clients,” the statement noted.

Entrepreneurs must apply to the program through the Access Accelerator’s website, www.accessaccelerator.org, as the government is asking Bahamians not to visit government offices because of the COVID-19 threat.

“To ensure transparency and safety, the Access Accelerator has built an online application,” the SBDC revealed.

According to the statement, BAF Financial & Insurance (Bahamas) Ltd., the Bahamas Entrepreneurial Venture Fund, Leno Corporate Services Ltd., Omni Financial Group Ltd., Simple Lending Ltd., Bahamas Development Bank and participating commercial banks have all agreed to participate in the program.

SBDC Executive Director Davinia Grant explained in the release that lending partners will be responsible for client vetting, approvals, the distribution of funds and collection.

“The Access Accelerator is facilitating the Business Continuity Loan Program, reaching out to financial institutions that we have already built relationships with and bringing on other lending institutions to ensure strong support of Bahamian small businesses,” said Grant.

“The financial partners will facilitate the actual loan processing, handle the vetting of the required information, approvals, the issuing of funds and collecting payments after the four months.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest, who announced the $20 million small business allocation during his address in the House of Assembly last week, said in the statement that keeping small businesses in operation is crucial at a time like this.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, as I have said many times over,” Turnquest said.

“In The Bahamas, MSMEs (micro, small and medium-sized enterprises) – which make up the vast majority of our business community – are especially important because they provide opportunities for entrepreneurs and create meaningful jobs with greater job satisfaction than positions with larger companies.

“These businesses help communities and neighborhoods flourish by keeping money close to home and often providing employment opportunities for community residents. For these reasons and more, we should do anything we can to keep these businesses afloat, especially during a time of national crisis such as what we are now enduring.”

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