Sunday, May 31, 2020

Businesses struggling to access Coronavirus loan scheme, says BCC

Results from the second BCC Coronavirus Business Impact Tracker reveal that most businesses have not yet successfully accessed the government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) and the grants for small businesses.

The business organisation’s weekly tracker poll, which serves as a barometer of pandemic’s impact on businesses and the effectiveness of government support measures, received more than 1,000 responses and is the largest independent survey of its kind in the UK.

The second set of polling was conducted from 1-3 April and follows further announcements made by the government to strengthen CBILS and expand support to mid-sized firms.

Businesses continue to report a high level of awareness of the government’s support schemes:

  • 59 per cent of businesses knew details about CBILS and 19 per cent planned to use it
  • 42 per cent knew details of the grants available for small businesses and 24 per cent planned to use it

However, the Tracker suggests that awareness is not translating into firms successfully accessing these schemes.

Just 1 per cent of respondents had successfully accessed the CBILS last week, with 8 per cent of respondents unsuccessful. The complexity of the application process and a slow or lack of response from the relevant body were cited as reasons for those who were unsuccessful.

It is hoped that the government’s announcements made on 2 April intended to improve access to the scheme will see success rates increase in future weeks.

7 per cent of respondents were currently using grants for small businesses, but 14 per cent had been unsuccessful. When asked about the reasons they were unsuccessful:

  • 83 per cent said they did not meet the criteria
  • 14 per cent said they had a slow or no response from the relevant body
  • 8 per cent said there was insufficient information or guidance available

Business’ cash flow, an important indicator of overall economic health, remains an urgent concern. The percentage of firms reporting less than a month’s worth of cash in reserve (16 per cent) and 1 to 3 months’ cash in reserve (41 per cent) has remained broadly unchanged from the previous week.

Of most concern, the percentage of firms reporting no cash in reserve was 6 per cent. B2C firms were more likely to report that they had no cash reserves (10%) compared to B2B firms and manufacturers (both 4%).

The proportion of respondents reporting over 12 months’ cash in reserve remains at 5 per cent despite a significant increase in the number of respondents.

37 per cent of respondents said they were planning to furlough between 75 to 100 per cent of their workforce over the next week, up from 32 per cent last week.

The percentage of firms intending to furlough 100 per cent of their staff increased from 17 per cent in our first week’s results to 20 per cent this week.

Commenting on the results, BCC Director General Dr Adam Marshall said: “Our latest data shows that many businesses face a cliff-edge scenario, either at the end of this month or over the course of the next quarter.

“We’ve seen a big jump in the number of firms furloughing staff, and many are now starting to apply for access to government loan and grant schemes to keep themselves afloat. Our research suggests that support is only starting to reach firms on the ground.

“We are pleased that the Chancellor is listening and responding to our calls to strengthen the existing support. Improvements to the CBILS scheme should help more businesses get access to the cash they need over the coming days and weeks. This could be the difference between survival and insolvency for many firms.

“It’s vital that governments across the UK continue to work closely with business over the coming days. Every minute counts, and governments, local authorities and banks must do everything in their power to ensure support gets to firms on the frontline more quickly.”

Scott Knowles, Chief Executive of East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire), said: “These figures highlight a gap between businesses’ awareness of these schemes and their success in accessing funding from them, which is concerning.

“Announcements made on Friday to improve access to the schemes were welcome and should hopefully lead to success rates increasing soon, with more firms getting access to the emergency funding they need to ease their cash flows.

“However, this could mean the difference between survival and insolvency for many firms, so it’s vital that more of the funding that’s been made available can quickly reach the businesses on the frontline which need it most so they can continue to trade, to protect jobs and the economy.”

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