More than 20,000 Australian businesses have received more than $1.98 billion in funding support made available through the Commonwealth Bank’s Government-backed SME Guarantee Loan Scheme to help them manage the impacts of the pandemic, recover and invest for the future.

The scheme, which the Federal Government launched on 22 March 2020 has seen various phases and was most recently expanded with the SME Recovery Loan Scheme (SMERLS), allowing any business with annual turnover of less than $250 million which has been impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic to borrow up to $5 million for up to 10 years at record low rates.

Across many sectors impacted by the pandemic, the scheme loans have helped deliver vital cash flow to small businesses, providing them with some peace of mind during challenging times. Further, the funding has helped many businesses to pivot, innovate and adapt to the current conditions - by transitioning online or expanding operations. For those who have experienced increased demand, it has allowed them to employ more staff.

One example of this is innovative meat wholesaling and retailing business, and a CBA business customer, Vic’s Premium Quality Meat. 

Resources

The business was one of the first organisations across the country to access the new SME Recovery Loan and is using the funding to invest in a fit out of a new flagship store in Melbourne as well as building an online presence.

Starting from humble beginnings to become Australia’s leading supplier of premium quality meat, Vic’s Meat was forced to navigate many pandemic related challenges in 2020, reinventing itself along the way.

With 250,000 kilograms of meat in stock at all times, lockdowns and restrictions hit fast and hard. Their answer was to pivot and launch their first online butcher, Vic’s Meat Direct. This saw regular punters able to buy exclusive restaurant quality meat as well as the usual butcher staples. Since launch a little over a year ago, the business has clocked in more than 100,000 deliveries and now deliver to 92 per cent of Australian postcodes.

Fifth-generation butcher and Vic’s Meat owner, Anthony Puharich, said: “We believe strongly in our meat quality and brand offering. While we’ve focused on building our online store in the last year, we’re excited to be using the [SME Recovery Loan] funds to bring our iconic Victor Churchill brand to the Melbourne high street and fit out a new flagship store,” he said.

“We’re always looking at how we can innovate our in-store customer experience and we’re planning to create something really special with plenty of bespoke finishes and interactive elements.

“Whilst we hadn’t necessarily planned to do this during a pandemic, when the right opportunity came up in Melbourne, we were fortunate to be able to access the loan to move quickly. We’re a family owned and run business and we couldn’t expand and grow our operations without the support of the bank. It’s been critical in allowing us to establish and fit out our new flagship store to the highest quality standard, and will also see us employ 30 more staff than we had before the pandemic when we open it in September this year,” he said.

Queensland software analytics firm, Key Data, is another business that has benefited from the government’s loan scheme and is now planning for future growth.

Managing Director, Dave Keys, said: “We had a number of ongoing contracts and project work with big companies that were put on hold due to COVID-19. The business made the strategic decision to access the loan scheme as additional cash flow and to keep the team employed and together.

“The SME Recovery Loan Scheme has enabled us to fast track our strategy – to develop new offerings close to our core strengths that we are currently commercialising with a growing client base during the downturn, as well as using the funds to market the business and get through to the end of the rocky period.  This has allowed us to diversify and we’re now in a strong position for growth and expanding our business. I’d encourage anyone considering taking out a loan through the scheme to look into it,” he said.

CBA’s Executive General Manager, Business Lending, Clare Morgan, said: “The impacts of the pandemic have been really varied for different businesses and different sectors, many require access to credit to help them through this period, and some are looking for additional capital to grow, invest and expand through recovery.

"The expansion of SMERLS is an excellent initiative to ensure that more businesses will be able to access business lending at low rates and on flexible terms.

“We plan to play a leading role in the expanded SME Recovery Loan Scheme as we’ve done through the various phases of the scheme and encourage businesses to speak with us about what might be suitable for their business needs.”

Businesses (both new to CBA and existing customers) can now apply for a SME Recovery Loan for their term debt, working capital and asset finance needs on CBA’s website at commbank.com.au/sme-recovery, call their Relationship Executive, or call our 24/7 Australian based business banking contact centre on 13 19 98.