FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is the MSME Support Program?

The MSME Support Program is a Government of Belize initiative that provides financial relief to Belize’s Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises in order to help safeguard and promote employee retention, as well as assist MSMEs as they transition and adapt to the economic challenges presented by the COVID-19.

 

·         $2.5 million: Grants to micro-enterprises from across the country, with a cap of $2,500 each.

·         $7 million: Wage subsidies to promote employee retention on the condition that these businesses keep their employees’ Social Security contributions current.

 

·         $5 million: Soft-loan component limited to approved small- and medium-sized enterprises to assist with working capital in preparation for reopening and accelerating production. 

Beneficiaries of the MSME Support Program will be segmented into three (3) categories determined by the number of employees:

·         Micro Enterprises: which employ 2 – 4 persons, including the owner

·         Small Enterprises: which employ 5-20 employees

·         Medium Enterprises: where employ 21-51 employees

 

 Given that disbursements will be made via the National Bank; do I need to set up a National Bank Account so as to benefit from any of the programs?

 

Answer: Yes. Beneficiaries under any of the programs will need to open a National Bank account. Approved beneficiaries will have an account opened automatically for them at NBB through which the funds will be channeled.

Answer: Yes. The cap is as follows:

·         $2,500 for Micro Enterprises under the Grant Facility (Fixed amount)

·         $15,000 for Small Enterprises under the Loan Facility

 

·         $25,000 for Medium Enterprises under the Loan Facility

Answer: To be determined based on demand and funds available. 

Answer: Being “negatively impacted” by COVID-19 refers to the following:

     Loss of employment

     Reduction in Sales

 

     Temporary closure of Business

Funds provided under the program can be used for:

·         Retention of employees

·         Financing of working capital: –

o   Purchasing of essential raw materials and production inputs

o   Supporting the promotion and marketing of products and services for market expansion

o   Diversification of existing products and services based on changing market conditions

o   Investments in productive assets: machines, equipment, tools, or others that are relevant to the commercial and operational activity of the company

 

·         Support in the implementation of nationally required COVID-19 health protocols

Answer: Applicants must:

·         Be a Micro, Small, Medium Enterprise as defined in the Target Group section above.

·         Have been operating the business for at least one year prior to March 2020

·         Be engaged in one of the following areas:

o   Tourism and Leisure

o   Transportation and logistics

o   Agriculture

o   Agro-processing

o   Fisheries

o   Light Manufacturing

o   Creative and Cultural Industries

o   Commercial Free Zones (Note: only eligible for wage subsidy OR employees may directly apply for Unemployment Relief)

·         Be Belizean owned, and for incorporated businesses that means shareholding must entail a minimum of 51% Belizean ownership

 

·         Must have been negatively impacted by COVID-19.

Answer: 
The estimated implementation of the program is three (3) months
commencing August 1st, 2020.  The
application period will run for twenty-one (21) days from launch, and a
decision will be taken within fourteen (14) calendar days of receipt of
completed application.

The Program will roll out in the following
steps:

·        Open call for applications, based
on the target groups;

·        Applications online (preferably) –
Applicants will specify for which facility(s) they are applying;

·        Completed Applications will be
submitted to the Evaluation Committee (EC) for review. Evaluation Committee
(EC) will validate (i) that the applicant meets eligibility requirements (ii)
the proposed use of the Program support being requested;

·        Applications will then be
forwarded for review and decision by the Approval Committee;

 

·        The National Bank of Belize will
serve as the paying agent for disbursal to approved applicants

– Documents to be submitted with a completed application
include, where applicable:

·        Business Name Registration

·        Company Registration

·        Tax Registration

·        Social Security

·        Trade License

 

 

·        Not Applicable (for informal
enterprises)

Answer: All applications are initiated online.  The Labor Department will provide assistance at their offices throughout the country. 

Answer: No. However,

·         Micro can apply for a grant and wage subsidy

·         Small/ Medium Enterprises can apply for the loan and a wage subsidy

Companies seeking to benefit from the wage subsidy program would need to apply on behalf of their employees. The verified employees would then receive the $150.00 every two (2) weeks for a maximum of three (3) months.

·         A micro-enterprise can apply for the wage subsidy as well as self-employed.

·         A small and medium enterprise can also apply for the wage subsidy.

 

·         An informal micro can also apply for the wage subsidy to formalize. 

Answer: No. Self-employed persons are advised to apply under the Unemployment Relief Program.

Answer: The Program utilizes the company’s status up to March 2020 as the “baseline” or “cutoff” point.  Therefore, the company will be assessed according to the number of persons employed prior to the cutoff. Essentially, everything after March 2020 is deemed as a deviation from ‘normal’ operations due to COVID 19. Consequently, a business fitting the description above would not qualify for the Micro Grant, but can apply for the other facilities provided under the MSME Support Program.

Answer: No. They are self-employed.  However, they would be eligible to apply under the Unemployment Relief Program (phase 2).

Answer: The nature of the entire suite of MSME support programs are to protect employment; therefore, yes, a business is encouraged to maintain or commit to retaining at least 60% of their pre-March 2020 staff complement.

 

If an established business can demonstrate that they have requisite expertise in the subject areas for particular training outlined by the program, is said business still required to participate in BELTRAIDE’s small business development programs?

 

Answer: All applicants will be encouraged to avail themselves of the business support services offered by BELTRAIDE as necessary. However, the Evaluating Committee reserves the right to waive this condition based on the unique status of each applicant.

Answer: This financing would be channeled through the National Bank of Belize with the following terms:

·         Interest rate will be at 3%, and duration of the loan will be 2 years

 

·        12-month grace period