Support measures for SMEs in tier 1 and 2 sectors extended

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The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), together with the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) and the Finance Houses Association of Singapore (FHAS), have announced an extension of the existing industry-wide support measures for individuals and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) in Tier 1 and 2 sectors that continue to face financial difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

These include the Extended Support Scheme (ESS) to help individuals and SMEs that continue to face cashflow difficulties due to the pandemic transition gradually to full loan repayments.

Introduced in October last year, the application period for the ESS measures was due to expire on 30 June 2021.

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The determination of the borrower’s Tier is established via the Job Support Scheme (JSS) notice(s) or other documentation from IRAS.

Tier 1 and 2 sectors include aviation and aerospace, tourism, hospitality, conventions and exhibitions, built environment, licensed food shops and food stalls (including hawker stalls), qualifying retail outlets, arts and entertainment, land transport and marine and offshore.

The industry-wide support measures introduced in 2020 have helped ease the financial strain of borrowers impacted by the pandemic. With the gradual opening up of economic activities, most borrowers have been able to resume loan repayments.

However, as the COVID-19 restrictions have impacted borrowers unevenly, the extension is targeted at those individuals and businesses who continue to experience cashflow difficulties, by giving them additional time to transition to full loan instalment repayments.

Extension of application window: Extended Support Scheme – Standardised (ESS-S)

For SMEs in these tiers that have sustained recent revenue impact, the extension of support measures aims to ease cashflow.

For these eligible SMEs in these tiers, the application window for the Extended Support Scheme – Standardised (ESS-S) will be extended from 30 June 2021 to 30 September 2021.

SMEs in Tier 1 and 2 sectors that are currently participating in the ESS-S may opt to defer 80% of principal payments on their secured loans granted by banks or finance companies, as well as loans granted under Enterprise Singapore’s (ESG) Enhanced Working Capital Loan Scheme and Temporary Bridging Loan Programme for an extended period till 30 September 2021.

SMEs in Tier 1 and 2 sectors that have not participated in the ESS-S can also apply to their lenders to defer 80% of principal payments till 30 September 2021.

Eligibility criteria

This will be on an opt-in basis for borrowers who do not have loan repayments that are more than 30 days past due.  Additionally, borrowers whose loans are already granted partial principal moratorium, should not have overdue payments on those loans.

Extension of application window: Extended Support Scheme – Customised (ESS-C)

To facilitate the restructuring of SMEs’ loans, the application window for the Extended Support Scheme – Customised (ESS-C) will be extended from 30 June 2021 to 31 December 2021.

SMEs with more than one lender may approach any of their lenders to assess if they would benefit from a multi-lender restructuring programme.

Eligibility Criteria

As above, this will be on an opt-in basis for borrowers who do not have loan repayments that are more than 30 days past due. Borrowers whose loans are already granted partial principal moratorium, should not have overdue payments on those loans.

Other eligible SMEs include those with multiple creditors that do not qualify for other restructuring programmes, such as the Simplified Insolvency Programme, and Sole Proprietors & Partnerships Scheme.

Final extension of industry-wide support measures

This is expected to be the final extension of the industry-wide support measures. Borrowers who are unlikely to be able to resume full loan instalment repayments by the end of the relief periods should approach their lenders early to work out longer term repayment solutions.

After the industry-wide support measures expire, lenders will continue to offer relief and restructuring options for borrowers facing cashflow challenges based on their specific circumstances.

Borrowers who are able to resume full loan repayments should do so to avoid unnecessary debt accumulation.

Mr Ravi Menon, Managing Director of MAS said, “The industry-wide support measures introduced by MAS and the financial industry last year have helped borrowers affected by COVID-19 restrictions. This final extension will provide support for remaining borrowers still affected by the restrictions.

“With continued economic recovery and transition to an endemic COVID-19 situation, loan repayments must start normalising so as to minimise debt accumulation. We must pivot away from industry-wide credit reliefs to more selective support measures tailored to individual borrowers’ circumstances.”

Mr Wee Ee Cheong, Chairman of the ABS said, “While the economic outlook has improved, recovery continues to be uneven across sectors and recent developments have led to some individuals and SMEs requiring further financial support.

“ABS and banks in Singapore will continue to stand by our customers through this time of need. Working closely with MAS, we will extend the ESS measures and engage customers to facilitate a smooth and progressive transition out of these relief programmes. We will also provide other targeted assistance and restructuring solutions to customers as appropriate.”

Mr Ang Tang Chor, Chairman of the FHAS, said, “Economic recovery towards a new normal is underway, underpinned by substantial fiscal stimulus as well as successful rollout of vaccination programmes.

“However, some individuals and SMEs may take a longer time to recover from the impact of the pandemic. Together with MAS, the finance companies in Singapore are committed to rendering further cash flow assistance to such borrowers via an extension of the support measures.

“The extension will ease their cashflow pressures and provide more time for borrowers to discuss suitable repayment options with their financiers.”