Through the Access Accelerator Small Business Development Centre, the Government of The Bahamas has allocated $20 million to assist small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Business Continuity Loan Program officially launches Wednesday, March 25, 2020. 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 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 Access Accelerator is also advocating for the deferral of existing loan payments for entrepreneurs who may 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, and CIBC FirstCaribbean is guaranteeing six months of deferred payments for their clients.
Existing small businesses – companies operating with a valid business license for one year or more – can apply to the program via the Access Accelerator website (www.accessaccelerator.org). All companies must agree to retain 51 per cent of staff and agree to have credit information shared with the Credit Bureau and other banking and financial institutions in the future to be part of the initiative.
Financial institutions that have agreed to participate in the program: Bahamas Entrepreneurial Venture Fund, Cash N Go Ltd., Leno Corporate Services Ltd., Omni Financial Group Ltd., Simplified Lending Ltd, Bahamas Development Bank and participating commercial banks.
Executive Director of the Access Accelerator, Davinia Grant explained that while that non-profit organization will facilitate the relief program, lending partners will be responsible for client vetting, approvals, 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, handling the vetting of the required information, approvals, the issuing of funds, and collecting payments after the four months. Operating like this will allow the Access Accelerator to manage this program while we continue to operate our current programs.”
To ensure transparency and safety, the Access Accelerator has built an online application process that will enable weekly reporting from financial institutions that will be made available to the public, she added.
K. Peter Turnquest, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, who first announced the $20 million small business allocation during his address in the House of Assembly, believes that keeping small businesses afloat during this time is crucial.
Turnquest said, “Small business is the backbone of our economy, as I have said many times over. In the Bahamas, MSMEs – 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 neighbourhoods 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.”
Interested persons should visit www.accessaccelerator.org starting Wednesday, March 25, 2020, to complete an application and follow the Access Accelerator on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn for more information and updates.
The Access Accelerator is the product of a tripartite arrangement between the Government, through the Ministry of Finance, University of The Bahamas (UB) and the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC). The Centre works to guide the development, funding, growth, and evolution of Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (“MSMEs”) in The Bahamas.