BE grants program extended and loans to replace JobKeeper

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has indicated international borders will remain closed for another year at least.

The Federal Government has outlined what support will be available after JobKeeper winds up at the end of the month.

As part of the measures announced in the government’s tourism support plan is a three month extension of the $50 million Business Events Grants Program.

The program’s guidelines have also been tweaked with the minimum grant amount to be reduced to $5,000 (from $10,000) to allow smaller businesses the opportunity to apply.

It has also extended the support for events scheduled through to 31 March 2022 to allow events that were postponed early 2021 the opportunity to benefit from the program, increased the number of delegates covered by the grant, increased the sponsorship cap and expanded the priority sectors.

Applications for the grant will be extended to 30 June 2021, with Expressions of Interest for event owners to have their event included on the Schedule of Approved Business Events re-opening in early April.

An updated version of the program guidelines and eligibility criteria for the Schedule of Approved Business Events will be published by end of March.

The backbone of the measures to help those businesses affected by Covid is an expansion and extension of the government’s ‘SME Loan Guarantee Scheme’.

Under the existing Scheme, more than 35,000 loans worth more than $3 billion have already been provided. The Scheme will be targeted and tailored to support those businesses that have been relying on JobKeeper during the March quarter.

The SME Recovery Loan Scheme will benefit from an increased Government guarantee, increasing from the current 50/50 split between the Government and the banks to an 80/20 split.

The expanded Scheme will also increase the size of eligible loans, increasing from $1 million under the current Scheme to $5 million. Businesses with a higher turnover will also benefit under the expanded Scheme, with the maximum eligible turnover increased from $50 million to $250 million.

Maximum loan terms under the expanded Scheme will also be increased from 5 to 10 years. The expanded Scheme will also allow lenders to offer borrowers a repayment holiday of up to 24 months.

The Scheme will also let eligible businesses refinance their existing loans allowing SMEs to access the more concessional interest rates available under the program.

More than 350,000 current JobKeeper recipients are expected to be eligible under the expanded Scheme. Loans will be available from 1 April 2021 and must be approved prior to 31 December 2021.

“We know there are sectors and regions across the country that are continuing to do it tough, which is why we will continue to support the economy with proportionate, timely, scaleable and targeted assistance,” said Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

“This SME Recovery Scheme is part of the next step in our plan to help small businesses stand on their own two feet as the economy recovers from COVID-19.

“The expansion and extension of the loans will back businesses that back themselves and will help businesses who continue to do it tough build a bridge to the other side of the crisis and keep their staff employed.”