Just 24 hours after the President launched the GH¢1 billion Coronavirus Alleviation Programme (CAP) Business Support Scheme, the National Board and Small Scale Industries (NBSSI) was flooded with applications from businesses seeking the opportunity to benefit from the stimulus package.
The Executive Director of the NBSSI, Mrs Kosi Yankey Ayeh, told the Daily Graphic in Accra yesterday that the board received more than 8,000 applications from interested businesses as of the close of business on the day.
In addition to the applications, she said more than 1,000 persons and institutions had called the board to make enquiries on the financial support meant to cushion businesses against the impact of the raging novel coronavirus disease.
She said interest in the stimulus package had generally been high, with the board being overwhelmed with the response so far.
“We have so far received over 1,000 calls with people asking how they can access the platform and how to apply, and how we can help them to address some challenges they encountered in the course of applying.
“The good news is that about 8,000 plus applicants had registered as of May 21 and are waiting to go on to the next step of the application process,” she stated.
The NBSSI is one of the institutions supervising the disbursement of the loans. Others are the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Finance, the participating banks, and the KPMG, which is acting as the technical advisors to the scheme.
Giving details about the response of businesses to the financial relief, the Executive Director indicated that the NBSSI set out clear modalities and eligibility criteria for micro, small and media enterprises (MSMEs) that could access the stimulus package.
For instance, businesses with more than 100 employees and above were not entitled to benefit from the package meant to cushion players within that space from the negative impact of COVID-19.
This means only eligible businesses with employees between one and 99 people under the modalities will benefit.
The action of the NBSSI was informed by the definition given to what constitutes micro, small and medium enterprises.
Those that do not belong to a recognised association or grouping will also be disqualified.
Proof of membership
Consequently, Mrs Yankey Ayeh said an applicant (business), among others was expected to show proof of its membership to a recognised association, trade group or registration with the NBSSI as part of the eligibility criteria.
“The 8,000 applicants we have received so far engaged in various business associations via Zoom to assist them through the application process,” she stated.
She observed that NBSSI would partner the various associations to monitor all funds disbursed.
As part of the modalities, she said an applicant must also show verifiable evidence of business activities gravely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“An applicant must operate a registered business which falls under the MSME category, and must also have a tax identification number (TIN).
“An applicant must engage in a business that produces goods or service that supports the fight against COVID-19, or operate a business that was adversely impacted by the outbreak of the virus,” she said.
The government announced the GH¢1 billion Coronavirus Alleviation Programme as part of enhanced measures to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on households, contain disruption to economic activities and rescue and revitalise industries.
The CAP, which was subsequently approved by Parliament on April 9, 2020, voted GH¢600 million as soft loans for businesses, especially those in the MSMEs sector.
As a result, Mrs Yankey Ayeh indicated that the fund had been categorised in Anidaso and Adom (special) loans, and was expected to provide soft loans at three per cent interest rate to businesses under the MSME space.
“After deliberation by the President, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Trade and Industry, we decided to keep the interest rates at three per cent to reduce the plight of the MSMEs in this difficult time.
“The moratorium still remains up to one year and during the application process, MSMEs have the option to select a moratorium that will work best for them.
“Repayment of loans also remains two to three years; this was taken into consideration based on MSMEs’ needs assessment,” she added.