The old proverb about living in interesting times, now seems to be about living in unprecedented times. At IBA we recognise that the COVID-19 crisis has had devastating impacts on many industries, regions and people. We’re doing all we can to support our customers manage through the current and future situation.
We know that Indigenous businesses are significant employers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and generate broader social and economic benefits for their communities. The economic impact of COVID-19 is seeing many of these businesses face significant challenges.
IBA is working closely with the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) and other Government agencies and sector participants to ensure we have a coordinated approach to assisting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals, families, communities and businesses. As announced by Minister Wyatt, the new $50 million package developed with NIAA, in addition to our relief measures, aims to provide support for Indigenous businesses to navigate the crisis, and to build resilience for the future.
In this rapidly changing environment, access to a support package like this is intended to complement other mainstream stimulus measures and help businesses to navigate the crisis, and to build resilience for the future.
Support for Indigenous businesses
The business support package includes access to specialist advice to help navigate the COVID-19 crisis and working capital assistance of up to $100,000.
IBA can provide access to specialist advice including a rapid impact assessment of business positioning, cashflow management and assistance to access available stimulus measures.
Affected Indigenous businesses can also apply for working capital assistance of up to $100,000 via a loan/grant package (assessed on a needs basis), which may consist of a grant of up to 50% of the package amount, and for the loan component, up to 36 months loan term, zero repayments for the first 12 months, and preferential interest rates thereafter.
Early on in the crisis, IBA also announced that its business customers could apply for a waiver of interest and deferral of loan repayments for business loan and equipment leasing customers impacted by the current COVID-19 crisis for an initial 4-month period. Unlike other major lenders, we chose to waive interest for the period, rather than just defer it, to offer more certainty to customers.
In partnership with Terri Janke & Company and 33 Creative, we produced a 4-part series on what steps Indigenous businesses can take in response to the COVID-19 crisis including information on employer obligations, managing legal contracts and insolvency trading. Those videos are available on the IBA YouTube channel.
Support for Indigenous homeowners
We know that the crisis has affected many industries and sadly, many have been stood down from or have lost their jobs. It was important to us to ensure that we tried to alleviate cashflow pressure for households as well as businesses.
As a result, we reduced our interest rates for all IBA home loan customers for an initial period of 6 months to 2.99% per annum, irrespective of whether they are in hardship. This will allow many individuals and families to reduce loan repayments to help ease the pressure of the current crisis.
IBA also offers deferral of repayments for home loan customers in hardship.
We’re here to help
Many of us have never experienced such a challenging time in our lives. Whilst I happened to be working in New York at the epicentre of the GFC in 2008 and 2009, this crisis is on a different scale, is not contained to any one industry and is so fast moving. Circumstances will continue to change in the coming weeks and months and we will continue to do what we can to support Indigenous communities in their business, home ownership and investment needs.
Our staff started working from home on 17 March yet that hasn’t interrupted our main focus to support our customers. We remain open for business and are doing everything we can to maintain services for our customers.
For more information on support available by IBA during the COVID-19 crisis, please visit iba.gov.au/indigenous-business-australia-covid19-support/
Rajiv Viswanathan, CEO, Indigenous Business Australia