Chancellor strengthens support on offer for business
The Chancellor Rishi Sunak is taking further action to support firms affected by the coronavirus crisis by bolstering business interruption loans for small businesses and announcing a new scheme for larger companies.
More than £90 million of loans to nearly 1,000 small and medium-sized firms have been approved under the government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) since its launch last week. And a government-backed scheme to provide financing to larger companies, being operated by the Bank of England, has also provided almost £1.9 billion of support to firms and a further £1.6 billion has been committed.
To maximise the support available, the Chancellor is extending the CBILS so that all viable small businesses affected by COVID-19, and not just those unable to secure regular commercial financing, will now be eligible should they need finance to keep operating during this difficult time.
The government is also stopping lenders from requesting personal guarantees for loans under £250,000 and making operational changes to speed up lending approvals. The government said it will continue to cover the first twelve months of interest and fees.
The new Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) is expected to ensure that more firms are able to benefit from government-backed support. It will provide a government guarantee of 80 per cent to enable banks to make loans of up to £25 million to firms with an annual turnover of between £45 million and £500 million.
This is expected to give banks the confidence to lend to more businesses that are impacted by coronavirus but which they would not lend to without CLBILS.
Loans backed by a guarantee under CLBILS will be offered at commercial rates of interest and further details of the scheme will be announced later this month.
"We are making great progress on getting much-needed support out to businesses to help manage their cash flows during this difficult time – with millions of pounds of loans and finance being provided to hundreds of firms across the country," said Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak.
"And now I am taking further action by extending our generous loan scheme so even more businesses can benefit. We have also listened to the concerns of some larger businesses affected by COVID-19 and are announcing new support so they can benefit too."
The Chancellor revealed he will be be speaking to bank chief executives next week to discuss how the schemes are working and ensure everybody is playing their part.
There have now been over 130,000 enquiries from businesses across the country for business interruption loans, according to latest figures from UK Finance. Some 983 businesses have had finance approved, while banks are processing thousands of loan applications – and scheme changes made on Friday will help them approve loans for the smallest businesses as quickly as possible.
According to the government, for loans over £250,000, personal guarantees will be limited to just 20 per cent of any amount outstanding on the CBILS lending after any other recoveries from business assets. Lenders were already prohibited from asking business owners to put their house on the line, but Friday's changes will provide further reassurance regarding personal assets during this difficult time.
This will apply to finance already offered under the scheme, to ensure that all business owners receive the same level of government protection.
"The changes we are making to the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme will make it easier for business to access the lending we have put in place, helping them to continue trading and protect the livelihoods of their staff," said Business Secretary Alok Sharma.
Last week, the Chancellor and the governor of the Bank of England, Andrew Bailey, wrote to banks asking them to support small and medium-sized enterprises in any way they can. This included ensuring interest rates offered to struggling businesses are reasonable and to pass on the benefit of the government guarantee to those borrowing under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.