Phase 2: Government-guaranteed loans now available to SMEs

Posted on 24/11/2020

Banking & Finance

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Overview:

The Federal Government’s loan scheme to assist small and medium-sized companies impacted by COVID-19 has been extended, with leading lenders now making up to $1m in new funding available to eligible businesses that apply before 30 June 2021.

Originally announced as part of the initial COVID-19 economic support packages, the Federal Government recently moved to extend its support for small and medium-sized business through the introduction of the Phase 2 Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme.

As we discussed when the details of the original package were first revealed back in March, the scheme is designed to provide SMEs with access to unsecured commercial loans, which are 50 per cent guaranteed by the Federal Government.

With major lenders Commonwealth Bank, BankSA, NAB, Westpac and ANZ, as well as a number of second tier banks, revealing details of their Phase 2 loan packages, eligible small businesses can now apply for up to $1 million in secured or unsecured finance between now and the end of the current financial year.

 

What has changed under Phase 2?

There are a number of significant changes including the extension of the scheme from its original cut off of date of 30 September 2020 until 30 June 2021 and, importantly for many SMEs, the increase in the loan limit from $250,000 to $1 million.

Importantly, Phase 2 also includes amended loan terms designed to provide more flexibility for SMEs accessing finance and better support lenders’ ability to provide credit under the scheme.

These amendments include a 10 per cent cap on the interest rate (note: this is only an approximate cap and will be at the discretion of individual lenders) and an increase in the loan term from a period of up to three years (under phase 1) to , now, five years, with repayment holidays offered at the discretion of the lender.

Loans are also available as both secured and unsecured finance, with lenders permitted to take guarantees and any security except for residential property.

As Perks Director of Banking and Finance, Bruce Debenham, points out, perhaps the most significant of all however, is the move to make the loans available for a broad range of business purposes, including to support investment.

“What we have seen with this announcement is a real pivot in the Federal Government’s policy agenda, which has shifted from a position of keeping business on life support to stimulating investment back into our national economy.”

“This is great news for SMEs who are considering a capital purchase to kickstart their recovery or looking to capitalise on the current climate to get ahead of the competition.”

As part of the amended scheme, SME borrowers can also refinance an existing Phase 1 loan into a Phase 2 loan.

And while Phase 2 loans can be used for a wide variety of purposes, there are some restrictions which SMEs need to be aware of, namely, this scheme cannot be used to:

  • purchase residential property;
  • purchase financial products;
  • lend to an associated entity; or
  • lease, rent, hire or hire purchase existing assets that are more than half-way into their effective life.

 

Are you eligible?

As part of Phase 2, the Government has also moved to broaden the eligibility criteria to make loans available to a larger number of SMEs.

Under the original scheme, borrowers were required to demonstrate that their business had been materially impacted by COVID-19; however, this is no longer the case. Under Phase 2, any SME, including sole traders and not-for-profits, with a turnover of up to $50 million are eligible to apply for finance and all SMEs that accessed loans under Phase 1 can also apply.

As Bruce explains, with the eligibility criteria now expanded, it is important to be aware that you will still be subject to the lender’s usual underwriting standards and credit criteria and you should therefore prepare accordingly.

“As we know from our experience, each bank is different in their expectations. It is therefore critical to carefully consider all aspects of the loan application and deliver all the necessary and relevant information so as to ensure that the application process will be as seamless as possible.”

“You also need to consider how much of your own time you’re able to spend negotiating with lenders, or whether you are better served speaking with a specialised business broker to help streamline the process.”

For more information, or if you would like assistance in preparing an application for your business to access the Federal Government-backed loan support package, get in touch with Bruce Debenham and the team at Perks Finance.

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