Covid-19 loan alterations welcomed but small businesses ‘not holding breath’

Some small business owners have responded with scepticism towards Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s wider package of measures to assist companies struggling amid the Covid-19 outbreak.

The PA news agency spoke to business owners who have enjoyed varying degrees of hardship since the outbreak, some of whom have applied to the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS).

David Rose’s company supplies software for live events which has exhausted reserves to survive a difficult February and March since the outbreak and has had to furlough staff.

Before Mr Sunak’s announcement, RBS told Mr Rose’s company it would only be able to receive a CBIL with personal guarantees – now banned on loans of less than £250,000 in the update – and statements of wealth from all shareholders with a stake of 20% or more.

“I will contact the bank again today and see if these new rules have made any difference… I’m not holding my breath,” Mr Rose told PA.

“Personally I think that the word ‘viable’ is still going to be an issue. The banks will simply use it as an excuse not to lend.”

The new Government support promises an expansion of the CBILS to allow “viable” small businesses affected by Covid-19 to apply, no longer limiting it to those unable to secure commercial financing.

Chris Holden is a self-employed mortgage broker who told PA he has been “inundated” with clients trying to access the CBILS and has applied himself.

Before Friday’s announcement, the 49-year-old told PA: “The issues with CBILs are immense – I suspect less money is being lent than before the crisis.

Mr Holden’s At Pace Mortgages website (At Pace Mortgages)

“I applied a week ago – online – and was told that someone would be in touch within two days. Still no contact.

“I can survive but many of my clients can’t. I have yet to have a client get a CBIL loan.”

Mr Holden said one of the original problems was the amount of information banks required to issue loans, including three years of accounts and credit scoring, coupled with the high volume of applications.

After Friday’s announcement, Mr Holden said: “It’s a welcome development but we need to see banks move quickly to get the funds out of the door.”

Angela Deacon is a single parent from Edinburgh who sells handmade personalised items with her online business, Livi’s Crafty Boutique.

Ms Deacon runs a small online business from home (Angela Deacon)

She said she has received no orders since the outbreak but cannot apply for the loan scheme and does not think the Chancellor’s alterations will help.

“I have a feeling the small at-home businesses will still not be able to apply,” she said.

“Plus the loan process looks confusing and I know it will put people like myself off even trying.

“I’m constantly feeling low at the moment because I feel I have to decide between fighting to grow my business and keep it alive or save money so I can provide for my daughter the next few months.”

Jamie Moore, from Heswall on the Wirral, had initially worried his wine merchant and delicatessen, Whitmore & White, would be ruined by the coronavirus outbreak – but business is now better than before after he moved more products to online delivery.

“We initially saw an upturn in trade before lockdown then hit a cliff face and sales dropped almost 70%… being brutally honest I thought (the outbreak) would be the end of us,” the 41-year-old told PA.

“(Delivery) has been an instant hit and online trade for local delivery has actually exceeded what we’d usually do in the shops at this time of year.

“I suppose if you’re stuck in and can’t go out for a meal or drinks, people are spending the difference on better quality wine to drink at home.”

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