Small and medium-sized businesses in Cayman are to get a respite from the pressures brought on by the COVID-19 crisis.
Minister for Commerce, Hon. Joey Hew has outlined the initial measures on Monday in what he said was the first tranche of the Government’s offer.
The package consists of a low-interest loan programme, grants for small and micro-enterprises along with technical assistance and training.
The Government has set aside a total of $KY 14.5 million for this first phase of its COVID-19 small and micro-business support programme.
In making the announcement, Min. Hew said Government has been mindful of the challenges facing the business sector particularly the smaller enterprises resulting from the COVID-10 outbreak.
"Right here across our Islands, we see economic activities in major sectors have come to a halt. And, there is no doubt that business and commerce will be affected in many ways that we did not anticipate.
"I want to assure the people of the Cayman Islands that the Government will do all that it can to ameliorate the effects of the pandemic and give these Islands the best chance of recovery," he said.
He said there is ongoing contact with the various stakeholders on how best to alleviate the challenges they are facing in the current economic downturn.
“As part of our efforts to arrest the economic disruption of COVID-19, my ministry will be implementing a number of relief measures to support our micro and small businesses.
“The Government has always been proactive by making it a strategic priority to implement initiatives to support micro and small enterprises across the Islands," Min. Hew added.
The initial approach will be built around a programme of loans and grants with a number of business-support components bolted on.
The loan scheme to be managed by the Cayman Islands Development Bank, will come from a fund of $KY 5 million and will benefit businesses that are 100% Caymanian-owned.
It will provide each borrower with a fully-backed government guarantee with up to $KY 50,000 for small businesses and $KY 20,000 micro-enterprises.
They will also benefit from a six-month moratorium during which the bank will not collect principal or interest payments. The loan is repayable over five (5) years at 1% interest in the first year, subject to increase thereafter.
For the grants scheme, $KY 9 million has been set aside by Cabinet.
The Micro and Small Business Grant Programme targets three thousand vulnerable micro and small businesses and is intended to provide initial assistance of $1000.00 monthly to selected business for three months.
Mr Hew said, the objectives of this programme will be to provide working capital assistance to micro and small businesses affected by COVID-19 which have enough of a domestic market to render the businesses recoverable.
Government will also assist those businesses which have been heavily focused on the tourist market and have demonstrated the ability to transition to a larger domestic market.
However, they must demonstrate a willingness and capability to re-purpose and transition into a new post-COVID economic environment.
Eligible businesses must have been operational for at least twelve (12) months prior to March this year.
Training and technical support are also built into the two schemes.
The relief package is seen as the precursor to an anticipated more extensive stimulus programme being developed.
Commerce Minister Hew stated: “In the coming days and weeks, we will continue to engage in discussions with members of the business community and other stakeholders to find interventions to lessen the impact of COVID-19 on your economy and our people.”
The Government's has always maintained that its priority is to preserve life and curtail the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic which is causing huge economic disruption globally.
Min. Hew reminded: “As the Honourable Premier has mentioned on a number of occasions, there are discussions taking place concerning our support for the business sector and economy.
"But as a Government, we will continue to place priority on flattening the curve of new cases so that our Islands can get back on its feet (at least) with domestic activities in the near future.”
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