A new financial assistance programme to help tour operators maintain their assets and ready their businesses for the border reopening was granted $4 million by Parliament’s Finance Committee on Wednesday, 1 Sept.
The programme, initially discussed at the committee’s meeting in July, will accept applications from Monday, 6 Sept.
Minister for Social Development André Ebanks told the committee Wednesday that “this was a concept brought to caucus from land and sea tour operators who made a pretty compelling case that while prior stipends assisted them personally, they didn’t have stipends to assist the business itself”.
While government took a cautious approach in July by approving only $2 million for the new programme, Ebanks said the framework has now been drafted in consultation with land and sea tour operators.
Ebanks suggested there will also be other subsectors that would need assistance before tourism ramps up again.
“So, we thought, perhaps it was prudent to extend another further $2 million to have another tranche.”
Opposition MP Joey Hew pointed to examples of businesses in the community that were unable to qualify for any assistance. For instance, one bed-and-breakfast owner, he said, has not been able to access any help, because she’s neither an employer nor the type of business that government has been able to support in the past.
Ebanks said that was exactly the kind of situation the new programme intends to rectify.
The same issue was raised at a public meeting in West Bay two weeks ago, he said.
“So, with the support of caucus and Cabinet, this additional funding is to try to fill that gap.”
The Centre for Small Business Development will facilitate the programme. Which types of businesses qualify, the application process and other details have yet to be released.