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Chancellor Rishi Sunak Will Boost Coronavirus Loan Access, But It Could Be Too Late

Small and medium restaurant businesses are struggling to access cashflow at speed to survive

Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, who will announce coronavirus loan scheme changes
Chancellor Rishi Sunak is having to adapt his scheme to save businesses

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is under pressure to revamp the “unprecedented” Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), as its current format is too slow to keep businesses alive. He is expected to announce changes designed to improve and speed up access to loans for small and medium-sized companies by Friday, according to Sky News.

Banks are currently directed to assess businesses for “normal” loans before assessing their eligibility for the CBILS, but Sunak is expected to remove this requirement after reports that up to one million businesses could go bust within a month, shutting down while waiting for cashflow that would come too late. The “new” programme will make any business with a turnover of up to £45 million eligible, provided, however, that it is “viable” — able to demonstrate its ability to both function profitably and, eventually, repay the loan.

This won’t fix two key problems for business owners: those that are eligible just can’t get through, and those that aren’t have no recourse to another funding solution. With banks closed and more staff off work sick than is typical, there’s a backlog on the phones. Owners who manage to get through and get approved are reporting wait times of a month for the money actually arriving, which could be the difference between mothballing successfully and having to pull the plug. There’s no silver bullet, and the government’s policies will only come under more pressure as the situation moves on.