Majority of small businesses haven’t accessed financial support for COVID-19 disruptions

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New research shows the majority of SMEs have not yet taken any action to address financial stability. 

The findings claim to echo comments from Minister for Small Business Paul Scully, who urged small business owners to go back to their banks if they were originally put off by the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) application process. 

Speaking at the webinar hosted by Intuit QuickBooks, Scully, said: “If you have been to your bank a couple of weeks ago and got put off, go back again, and have another go; because now you should be able to have automated accreditation for your credit history, there are no personal guarantees and you do not have to look at various commercially available credit schemes, before getting access to the government scheme. So, I hope you will find your experience improves, since we launched the improved scheme on Monday.” 

The British Business Bank announced earlier this week that it approved four new lenders for accreditation under the CBIL scheme and is reviewing more applications from alternative lenders, which is expected to help manage the volume of interest.  

According to the Minister, the number of successful CBILS loans had quadrupled over the last week, with numbers expected to accelerate further. 

This mirrors today’s findings which shows over half of small businesses plan to apply for some form of government support, with government grants or loans or tax relief cited by SMEs as the available support they would find most helpful. A freeze on payments for recurring business operations costs, loan, card or overdraft payments and card processing fees are seen as the second most relevant form of support by SMEs.  

Sole traders and micro-businesses hit hardest by COVID-19 

According to the research, the smallest businesses have been worst affected, with 76% of sole traders and 74% of micro-businesses (with between one and nine employees) reporting a negative business impact compared to a 70% average across all SMEs. A quarter of both sole traders and micro-businesses have already stopped operations. 

However, some optimism persists, with almost half of all SMEs indicating they are well placed to continue operations in the next month. However, small businesses with 10 – 49 employees feel the opposite, with 46% reporting that they are not in a good place.  

QuickBooks VP and UK Country Manager, Chris Evans said: “We are delighted Minister Scully was able to join us and answer important questions from small business owners. Small businesses are the backbone of the UK economy, and many of them will have never faced an environment as tough as this.  

“As well as having to work out a rapidly changing new environment, they are also facing pre-existing challenges such as cash flow, getting paid, confidence and the burden of admin, that are now magnified by the current uncertainty. These challenges are shaping the success and survival of small businesses more than ever, which is why we are helping businesses tackle these issues with technology while connecting them to advice and resources to navigate the circumstances.“  

John Foundling corporate finance partner at accountancy firm, Menzies LLP, said: “As the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) only came online this morning, it is too early to say whether small and medium-sized businesses have been slow to make use of it.  The extended Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), which has been available since 6th April, has been subject to change.  

“Government statistics published last week indicate that 6,020 loans have been approved, a figure which is rising daily – so it is clear than applications are coming through. It is also possible that some businesses have chosen to make use of the job retention scheme first, before deciding whether a business interruption loan is required. 

“The Chancellor’s decision to launch the Future Fund (announced yesterday), which will be available from May, is the latest welcome piece in the jigsaw for SME business owners. This scheme will provide loans of £125,000 to £5m to match the value of private sector investment secured by innovative businesses.”