Changes to recovery loan scheme for small and medium enterprises
As a part of an economic package to help businesses recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Government provided low-cost credit to qualifying small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the form of the SME Recovery Loan Scheme. When it was first introduced, and until 31 December 2021, the government essentially guaranteed 80% of the loan amount.
However, from 1 January 2022, as restrictions have eased, the government guarantee has been reduced from 80% of the loan amount to 50% of the loan amount. The eligibility conditions have also been slightly fine-tuned, with the scheme now due to end on 30 June 2022.
To recap, the scheme is available to eligible small and medium businesses with up to $250 million turnover, including sole traders and non-profits. Previously, the scheme was also open to recipients of JobKeeper payments between 4 January 2021 and 28 March 2021, and those businesses affected by floods in eligible local government areas in March 2021. Now, only those businesses that have been adversely economically affected by COVID-19 are eligible.
Eligible small and medium businesses can access up to $5 million in total from participating lenders. This is in addition to the loan limits for Phase 1 (unsecured capital loans of up to $250,000 for terms of up to three years) and Phase 2 (unsecured loans of up to $1 million for terms of up to five years with a cap on interest rates) of the scheme.
Loans can now be unsecured or secured and will generally be for terms of up to 10 years, with an optional repayment holiday period of up to 24 months. The amounts can be used for a range of business purposes, including investment support or refinancing the pre-existing debt of an eligible borrower. For example, the loans can be used to purchase non-residential real property, including commercial property, or for the acquisition of another business.
While the exact interest rate will be determined by participating lenders, under the scheme, the maximum rate will be capped at around 7.5% with flexibility for interest rates on variable rate loans to increase if market interest rates rise over time.
Participating lenders can offer any suitable product to eligible businesses except for credit cards, charge cards, debit cards or business cards.
Loans issued under the scheme to refinance existing loans cannot be used for the purposes of:
purchasing residential property;
purchasing financial products;
lending to an associated entity; or
leasing, renting, hiring or hire-purchasing existing assets that are more than halfway into their effective life.
Further, there will also be some restrictions on refinancing loans, including not allowing loans more than 30 days in arrears to be refinanced, and not allowing borrowers who have entered into external administration or are insolvent to refinance debts. Participating lenders include the “Big 4” banks, plus a host of other smaller financial institutions and mutual societies.
If you would like to know more please contact one of our accountants on 07 4639 1099 or come in and see us at 4 Bowen Street Toowoomba.