Commerce Minister Joey Hew has said government will be making one-off payments to struggling small businesses which have been unable to secure Cayman Islands Centre for Business Development micro- and small-business grants.

Hew said it is anticipated that over 450 business owners will qualify to receive the new $3,000 disbursement, which he announced at Thursday’s COVID-19 press briefing.

“This is a single payment that will be made per business owner irrespective of the number of businesses owned, and/or number of applications submitted in previous phases of the programme,” he said.

The total fund commitment from government is just over $1.3 million, the minister added.

The funds will only be paid to businesses that applied for, but did not receive, a grant under phase II of the programme.

Commerce Minister Joey Hew speaking at Thursday’s COVID-19 briefing. Photo: GIS

The programme offers support packages for micro and small businesses to cover wages, digital enablement, commercial rent assistance, business-process innovation grants and customised business-continuity plans.

Micro-businesses, under the programme, are able to access packages not exceeding $10,000, while small businesses may access packages up to $20,000.

Hew said he anticipates that payments will be distributed as soon as the funds are made available to the Cayman Islands Centre for Business Development.

“The vetting process has already been done so it should be a matter of processing [the payments] through Treasury, so it should be a few short weeks,” Hew said.

The minister said, because those benefitting from the payment have already been through the screening process, they will not need to submit any new application or supporting documents.

“Documents submitted in support of previous applications will be used as proof of operations for these applicants; and therefore no action would be required on the part of the beneficiaries. Deposits of $3,000 will be made to the account numbers of business owners by electronic funds transfer,” he added.

Hew, in providing an update on the grant programme, said 1,432 businesses benefitted from approximately $4.3 million in assistance in the first phase.

“In phase II of the programme, 370 businesses were approved for amounts ranging from $6,000 to $20,000. Successful applicants are currently being processed and are set to benefit from a total funding of $4.5 million,” he added.

Under the scheme, 29 loans have been disbursed with a value of over $1 million, with technical assistance also provided to 44 small businesses.

Hew, in outlining further assistance to business owners, said a business incubator will be opened at the Centre for Business Development on 24 March.

“The business incubator will house start-ups and business owners who do not currently have a work space from which to operate. We expect that this will benefit up to 20 micro- and small-business owners and entrepreneurs, at any one time. The residential space will be made free of charge for up to two years,” he said.

The minister added that advisers at the centre, as well as other business mentors, will provide strategic business development guidance to help them innovate and grow.

He said a special advisory panel, consisting of legal, accounting and other business professionals, will also be available for entrepreneurs utilising the incubator.

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