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Second round of Business Continuity Program could begin soon

The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) should soon be rolling out its second round of the government’s Business Continuity Program, Acting Financial Secretary Marlon Johnson said.

Some small businesses that had previously opted out of the program, which provides funding in the form of a low-interest loan to businesses adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic so long as they retain their employees, complained to Guardian Business that they attempted to apply now during this second lockdown period only to be told the program had closed.

Johnson said those businesses finding themselves in that position should seek to take advantage of the $55 million government has allocated this fiscal year for Bahamian entrepreneurs and small businesses.

“The initial phase was put in place at the end of the last fiscal year and that phase ended toward the end of June, is when they would have accepted the last set of applications. Now with the new budget there are new allocations. The SBDC is, I think, ready to finalize and soon operationalize their new round of business continuity loan support and the like that would have been approved as part of the $55 million for small businesses,” he said.

“As you may recall, some $55 million was put in the budget for small business support and a portion of that is to address the phase two business continuity loans and grants as small businesses continue to deal with the fallout of COVID-19.”

Although initially only $20 million was allocated, at the close of the program, the SBDC processed approximately $36 million in business continuity loans and grants to 508 small businesses as part of the government’s special COVID-19 response.

Businesses were given five years to repay the loan starting four months from approval.

However, SBDC Executive Director Davinia Grant said given the current state of the economy, the date to start repayment has been pushed back.

“In order to help startups and existing businesses, those who would have received business continuity loans or just recently received micro loans through the SBDC alongside the Bahamas Development Bank all of those payments, the principle and interest, has been deferred to January 31,” she told Guardian Business.

“This is the SBDC and the government saying that we recognize where we are at the moment and what’s going on in the economy and we want to give these companies a fighting chance.”

Eligible businesses for the Business Continuity Program must have been in operation for longer than one year and earn less than $3 million in revenue and have less than 50 employees to apply for a low-interest rate loan (five percent) for working capital to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue as a result of the pandemic.

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