The Small Business Bureau (SBB) has provided grants of up to $200,000 to its registered clients, who have proven that they were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Bureau has been engaging clients, and prospective clients, throughout the lockdown and created the COVID-19 Relief Programme to support struggling businesses.
Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Lowell Porter, told DPI that the grant, which is different from the Government’s $25,000 per household cash grant, was for clients who met its requirements.
“Our clients have been very negatively impacted, and some of them have had to shut their doors, while there are some others who have been steadfastly trying to survive,” he said.
Added to this, he said, “In Guyana’s economy, small businesses are very, very small so any kind of negative impact to any degree, affects them terribly. Their lives are involved, their livelihoods are involved; these people depend on that for their very existence.”
Following a survey, the SBB decided to create the grant which offered small businesses who met the requirements grants between $75,000 and $200,000. More than 130 small businesses have since benefitted.
Businesses which were not SBB clients but expressed interest in the grant were encouraged to register with the Bureau.
“Imagine you have somebody who never knew about us, now they heard, in times of need, and we were able to help them,” Dr. Porter said.
Considering the long-term implications of the pandemic, the Bureau aims to help businesses emerge more resilient and more successful. The programme is ongoing, and small businesses are encouraged to contact the SBB for guidance and support.
“There are lots of businesses out there that could not get help from us because they are not formalised, they are not regularised, they are not even registered, and some of the owners do not pay taxes, they don’t contribute to the NIS, and it’s all because most times they do not understand how that works,” Dr. Porter explained.
To this end, the Bureau will work with the National Insurance Scheme, the Guyana Revenue Authority and other stakeholders to raise awareness about the importance and benefits of having businesses regularised. Meanwhile, Dr Porter hopes the Bureau can help more tourism businesses noting that there will be a “new push” to help the sector bounce back. The Emergency Budget 2020 provided $100 million for the Small Business Development Fund, which Dr. Porter said would continue to be used to support small businesses through the grant scheme.