Small business dept says coronavirus relief funds may soon be depleted

The department of small business development is in talks with National Treasury to make more funding available for it to better support small enterprises, as large swathes of South Africa's economy grind to a halt to battle the coronavirus pandemic. 

In an online meeting with MPs on Tuesday afternoon, Minister of Small Business Development, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, said the initial R530 million set aside for her department's small business relief scheme was not sufficient for the number of companies seeking financial support. The Unemployment Insurance Fund has stepped in to help the department cover the need.

"Our pot or kitty is too small," she said. "We are working with National Treasury to make sure more money in the scheme is available".

Small businesses can apply for state relief under a debt relief scheme, as well as a growth and resilience initiative. Both are meant to help cushion small, medium and micro enterprises from the economic shock of the nationwide lockdown. 

Ntshavheni told MPs that thus far 665 businesses had benefited from the department's debt relief scheme, resulting in the preservation of about 10 000 jobs. Four small businesses had benefitted from the growth and resilience scheme.

Based on the number of applications received, Ntshavheni said the R530 million could be depleted in a matter of days. Her department is still in talks with Treasury to make sure more businesses can be covered, she said. 

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