Government officials gave updates on the Small Business Sector Grant Programme during a virtual ceremony on Monday. From left are Premier’s Office con- sultant Patlian Johnson; Director of Trade, Investment Promotion and Consumer Affairs Karia Christopher; Junior Minister for Trade and Economic Develop- ment Shereen Flax-Charles; Premier Andrew Fahie; Premier’s Office Permanent Secretary Dr. Carolyn O’Neal-Morton; and Policy Analyst Lizette George. (Photo: GIS)

Government announced Monday that 1,039 businesses will receive funds under the $6.5 million Small Business Sector Grant Programme, and 10 others will benefit from a $40,000 United Nations Development Programme initiative.

During a virtual ceremony rolling out the grants, Premier Andrew Fahie said 1,423 businesses had applied for the first programme by the Aug. 21 deadline, and the 1,039 that were successful will be awarded grants ranging from $1,592 to $7,955.

“Your government recog- nises that COVID-19 has caused — and continues to cause — significant economic impact on workers and on businesses,” Mr. Fahie said. “That is why we put forward those initiatives to help our people to get through this pandemic. I urge our businesses to ensure that these funds are used to create a lasting impact and lasting benefit on your operations.”

Businesses have already been contacted with instructions for how to access their funds, Mr. Fahie said.

However, he did not give a date for when they will be disbursed, and the Beacon was unable to obtain this information from his office or the Department of Trade, Investment Promotion and Consumer Affairs.

Officials also did not explain why nearly 400 applicants were unsuccessful.

Karia Christopher, director of the trade department, had said last
month that “99 percent of busi- nesses that apply” would qualify for a grant. To be eligible, businesses must have been esta lished before Jan. 31 and have no more than 20 employees.

Allocations

The Small Business Sector Grant Programme, part of the government’s larger stimulus package funded through a $40 million grant from the Social Security Board, was established to help small businesses affected by Covid-19 pay their bills and to stimulate economic activity, the premier said.

He explained that loss of business revenue was used to evaluate impact, “which resulted in a more targeted and equitable distribution of funds
to the recipients.”

However, since the needs of the businesses outstripped the programme’s funding, he said, applicants were allocated only a certain percen age of losses.

Payments will be made directly to the beneficiaries, who will be expected to sign a declaration stating that they will participate in the financial management training being offered pro bono by Deloitte and
KPMG, the premier said. Though the recipients were not identified, government did provide a breakdown of the grants by district (see sidebar).

District Four, which includes Road Town, received the most at 280. District Seven received the fewest, with 59. The average grant amount in all districts totaled around $6,000 per business.

10 UNDP grants

The premier also gave details about the 10 recipients of a UNDP grant.
These food operators, who each will receive $4,000, include six on Tortola, two on Anegada, one on Virgin Gorda, and one on Jost Van Dyke, according to the premier.

Of those, five are restaurants, three are food vans and two are cafés or snackettes. Five of the 10 businesses are owned by women, he added.

Ugo Blanco, the territory’s interim UNDP resident representative, said, “Thanks to the leadership and proactiveness of the Premier’s Office and the Ministry of Finance, food operators in the BVI are now better equipped with the tools and re- sources needed to jumpstart their operations.”

As part of the knowledge-based component of the pro-gramme, awardees of both programmes will receive business management guidance from accounting and business development professionals, said Mr. Fahie.

Quarantine services

He also offered a reminder that the government is employing security services and hoteliers to assist in quarantining returning residents, and boat and taxi operators to transport health professionals to and from the sister islands.

To further help out businesses, the BVI Electricity Corporation is giving breaks on electricity bills to those who qualify, said Mr. Fahie.

In addition, each elected representative in the House of Assembly was given $300,000 to assist those who need financial assistance.

“Those persons who are members of the elected government have created small projects to stimulate jobs in the districts and assist entrepreneurs,” the premier said. “We ensured that we were fair across the board. … We are making sure that small businesses and entrepreneurs who have applied under various arms of our stimulus programme are beneficiaries of what little we have to offer and to work with.”

‘Forever changed’

In a separate statement delivered Friday, Junior Minister for Trade and Economic Development Shereen Flax-Charles called the business environment “forever changed — whether we like it or not and whether we are ready for it.”

She added, “Over the last few months, business owners and managers around the world and here in the BVI have been learning how to function efficiently and effectively with less staff and through remote work- ing using technology.”


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