Our goal is to equip the Silicon Cape community with pertinent knowledge and information to ensure they are well-informed to cope through the COVID-19 crisis, and the national lockdown as well as to provide a safe platform where all ecosystem community members can share their queries/concerns and be provided with support to enable them to move forward. Below are some of the FAQs that were submitted as part of the Community Support Webinar we hosted with representatives from Business Partners Limited, the Banking Association of South Africa, O’Reilly Law, Wesgro and Western Cape Government.
FAQ: BUSINESS RELIEF – SUKUMA RELIEF FUND
Q: What financial relief measures are there for businesses currently?
A: Foremost is the Sukuma Relief Fund started by the Rupert and Remgro donations. The fund has two programmes: a R25,000 grant per beneficiary aimed at formal sole proprietors, and debt loans of up to R1-million per business for SMEs. These have no interest for the initial 12-months, after which the prime interest rate will apply. All applications are to be completed online, with a seven day turn around. Other relief programmes are being run by the DTI, IBC, ABSA, and others.
For more information on the Sukuma Relief Fund, please see: https://finance.businesspartners.co.za/welcome-to-the-sukuma-relief-programme/
Q: Several funding programmes have reached their capacity for the time being – when will it reopen what does this mean for those still looking for relief?
A: There is no confirmed date yet but when applications do reopen, it will be communicated to Silicon Cape.
Q: How do I avoid trading under insolvent circumstances and what are the consequences?
A: Insolvency limits a business’s options severely. However, you will be able to negotiate the subordination of certain loans to restore solvency or seek out business rescue. For more information, seek out advice from your legal counsel if facing insolvency.
Q: What are the rules for using funding to employ community workers?
A: Businesses can decide for themselves how they wish to use any funding received.
Q: What can we expect the world of business in Cape Town to look like post-COVID-19?
A: There will be some business casualties, but no one really knows what the environment will look like when we come out of this pandemic, some industries will be affected more than others, but the improvement will be progressive.
Q: How should businesses operate post-lockdown?
A: Businesses should take the relevant steps to digitise themselves and to ensure their ability to operate remotely.
Q: What financial assistance can an NGO get?
A: NGOs qualify for financial assistance with the same rules that apply for for-profit businesses.
FAQ: BUSINESS RELIEF – BANKING SECTOR
Q: What help are banks offering at this time?
A: Banks are helping those in distress by processing credit insurance claims; providing instalment reductions for an appropriate period; and offering payment breaks and other debt relief packages. SMEs are urged to contact their financial provider, as they are in contact with many businesses and are in a better position to provide valuable information and support beyond just banking needs.
Q: Who qualifies for help from the banks?
A: Customers in good standing who cannot meet their credit agreement payments in the short-term as a result of COVID-19 are eligible. A customer is considered to be in good standing if they are up to date with their payments and have a good track record of paying their debts on time. Customers should contact their banks to access these relief measures.
FAQ: LAW & LEGISLATION
Q: First and foremost, what should I do from a legal perspective?
A: The first thing you as a business-owner should to do is to protect your cashflow and collect your debt. Your cashflow is vital to keeping your business going and you are legally entitled to claim any money owed to you via contract. Secondly, talk to your suppliers and creditors and negotiate Commercial Contract relief measures that work for both parties. Be careful with your words, as your communications can be used against you if there is any suspicion of insolvency. Thirdly, consult a labour law specialist for guidance on how to proceed with employees, and lastly, consider the restructuring of your business, business rescue and possibilities of liquidation.
Q: What are the legal obligations and consequences of not paying rent, wages and other commercial agreements during the pandemic?
A: This depends on the contents of your agreement and whether it has a Force Majeure clause. There is no blanket answer and it is critical that you negotiate with your clients, suppliers and creditors to ensure a mutual understanding.
FAQ: GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION
Q: How is government engaging, collaborating and supporting businesses at this time?
A: Government, through Wesgro and the Department of Economic Development and Tourism’s Digital Economy Unit, is providing a wealth of information and resources on COVID-19 for businesses. This can all be found on a new, multi-institutional website, the COVID-19 Content Centre (see https://www.supportbusiness.co.za/), which is providing information on the lockdown and several relief measures, as well as a COVID-19 Fund Finder for businesses.
Q: How is government activating communication channels to ensure information is getting to the most vulnerable business owners?
A: Government is currently running a series of initiatives to grow the province’s digital economy and connect citizens in underdeveloped areas. Programmes include the Department of Economic Development and Tourism’s Interactive Community Access Network (ICAN) and Digital Business Support Platform (JUMP), which are aimed at providing citizens and businesses with access to digital infrastructure and skills. In addition, 577 Wi-Fi hotspots have been launched around the province, with specific support for townships currently being discussed in Government.
Q: What about skills development during COVID-19?
A: Content from ICAN and other Department of Economic Development and Tourism skills booster programmes have been made available to the general public to aid the upskilling of citizens during lockdown.
Q: Is there a planned stimulus package to revitalise the economy after the lockdown period is over?
A: So far, government has initiated a series of business recovery strategies focussed on best practice. It is also working on widening access to digital skills and literacy, and internet communication technology, to ensure citizens have access to the wider economy.