Micro, small and medium-sized business that have been facing difficulties due to the coronavirus pandemic can now apply for financial aid from the Government of the Virgin Islands.
The $6.5 million economic stimulus for that sector was launched on Tuesday as part of government’s overall $65 million COVID-19 economic response plan.
“Your overnment recognises that COVID-19 has caused, and continues to cause significant economic impacts on workers and on businesses. That is why we put forward those initiatives to help our people to get through this pandemic,” Junior Minister for Trade & Economic Development Shereen Flax-Charles said at the virtual launching ceremony this week.
“One of the initiatives is the Small Business Sector Grant Relief Programme that was established for the purpose of assisting Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise (MSME) businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, in meeting their operational expenditure while stimulating economic activity by facilitating the circulation of money within the territory.”
The Junior Minister said the grant was approved on June 17 and will be funded by the Social Security Board.
Flax-Charles also said MSMEs comprise more than 90 percent or about 3,600 businesses in the territory.
“From the various administrative records and survey results, it has become evident within the past few months, with extended periods of low or no revenue due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, small businesses became more vulnerable to prolonged economic shocks,” she further said.
In an effort to facilitate the design and implementation of the programme, Cabinet decided that a committee should be established.
This committee will consist of representatives from the Premier’s Office serving as Chair as well as representatives from the Ministry of Finance and the Department of Trade serving as members.
“This committee has been working to ensure the effective administration and management of the application process for the approval and disbursement of the grants. The first task of the committee was to develop the policy guidelines, along with developing the appropriate application mechanism through which the grant programme will be administered and effectively managed,” Flx-Charles said.
The committee will also be responsible for monitoring and evaluating of the programme to ensure its success by collecting information through participant surveys, focus group discussions and interviews carried out periodically during, and after the implementation period, she stated.
Affected companies can now complete the online application form found on the government’s website and submit it via the same portal.
She said provisions would also be made through the Department of Trade to assist applicants who may have difficulty completing an electronic application form or do not have access to a computer or the internet.