On Monday morning the Treasury held an emergency meeting with Britain’s largest banks at which it was agreed that businesses can request to ‘top-up’ their borrowing under the various COVID-19 support loan programmes from next week. This is a direct consequence of the lockdown commencing on 5 November 2020.
UK firms will now have until the end of January to apply for emergency business loans, including bounce back loans (BBLS), coronavirus business interruption loans (CBILS) and the CLBILS scheme for larger firms. That is two months longer than the existing 30 November deadline. The extension also applies to the Future Fund, aimed at UK start-ups.
Small businesses that already received funds through the 100% government-backed BBLS programme – which offers firms cheap loans worth up to £50,000 – will also be able to top up existing loans if they need additional cash.
The top-up is meant to help firms that borrowed less than the maximum sum available – up to 25% of their turnover to a limit of £50,000 – to avoid taking on extra debt. However, most firms made those calculations before the second lockdown in England was announced.
A government document outlining the changes said: “We understand that some businesses didn’t anticipate the disruption to their business from the pandemic would go on for this long; this will ensure that they are able to benefit from the loan scheme as intended.”
Firms will be able to request a top-up from next week but will only be able to do so once, according to the document. The bounce back loan scheme has so far distributed £40.2bn to 1.3m UK businesses.
While the chancellor had committed to crafting a new government backed loans programme for 2021, the reality of a second lockdown put more businesses under pressure without additional emergency funding.
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