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Minister of Finance Colm Imbert

There is good news for small and medium enterprises as the Government’s $300 million loan guarantee programme is expected to kick off this week.

Finance Minister Colm Imbert made the announcement during Saturday’s Ministry of Health virtual press conference, noting the paperwork had been completed and advertisements will in the newspapers this week. He said the programme will be managed by First Citizens and Republic Bank but Royal Bank and Scotiabank have also indicated their willingness to join the programme.

“I am told by FCB that they expect to process the first loan by Thursday next week and that this is expected to move very swiftly,” Imbert said.

“The Government is paying all of the loans, which range, depending on the size of the organisation, from $75,000 up to $325,000 and these are intended to assist with payroll expenses and other operational expenses. The Government will pay all of the interests on these loans, so the loans are interest-free for small and medium enterprises and the Government’s also guaranteeing 75 per cent of the loan. So this is a very generous loan programme and it is all in the context of trying to help the business people to keep people in jobs.”

The enterprises will not have to make any payments for the first two years, Imbert said. However, he noted that the programme is for enterprises with an annual turnover of between $1 million and $20 million. For those that make less than $1 million in sales a year, he said the Cabinet has approved a $30 million grant programme which they are now finalising with the National Entrepreneurship Development Company.

Imbert said Government had also made $100 million available to credit unions. He said these institutions will make loans available to members at a maximum of $5,000 per month for three months at very attractive rates with moratoriums. To speed up the process, the credit unions will be using their own finds.

“As the credit unions process the loans, they will apply to the Ministry of Finance for reimbursement on a monthly basis, so that is in train and we expect to receive the first application from the credit unions shortly.”

He said they are also making a further $100 million available to credit unions for small businesses but the details are still being worked out. Imbert said Exim Bank has also been provided with an additional US$25 million for three months for the importation of essential foods, pharmaceuticals, sanitary products, personal protective equipment and other essential supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Giving an update on social relief and financial grants, he said as of June 24, 42,000 people had received salary relief grants for April and May while the Social Development Ministry has processed 29,000 income support payments.

In addition, he said food cards have been given to 29, 399 new peoples at a cost of $45 million, additional support was given to 25,000 beneficiaries at a cost of $17.14 million, while 20,500 people who have children on the school feeding programme received food cards at a cost of $31.4 million.

Rental assistance has also been provided to $1,133 families at a cost of $4.8 million.