*This article first appeared on www.theadviser.com.au on 6th May 2020. You can read the original article, here

Brokers, accountants and bookkeepers have been thanked by the ASBFEO for their work in supporting small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated economic downturn.

On Monday (4 May), the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ABSFEO), Kate Carnell, joined the deputy commissioner of small business from the ATO, Deborah Jenkins, on the MyBusiness live webinar on how the JobKeeper payments affect small businesses.

Partnered by accounting software provider Reckon, the ASBFEO joined Reckon CEO Sam Allert in thanking accountant and bookkeepers for their service during the ongoing crisis, with the ASBFEO also recognising brokers.

Ms Carnell told MyBusiness viewers: “It’s absolutely essential that small businesses get good advice. So, their bookkeeper, their accountant, their broker – whoever they get business advice from normally – is a fundamentally important person right now.”

The small business ombudsman added that she was aware that many of these advisers are “under the the pump at the moment because they’ve got so many of their clients asking for advice”.

She therefore said: “So, I’d like to just say, right now, thank you to the accountants, the bookkeepers and others who are really, really stepping up here as well.”

Ms Carnell also thanked the ATO for moving the timelines so that the gap between SMEs having to pay staff and receiving JobKeeper payments was shorter, given that the “biggest single problem for small business has been the gap between when the ATO [was] going to pay them for JobKeeper, and when they had to pay the staff”.

Noting that most SMEs have only a month’s worth of cash reserves, the ASBFEO outlined the urgency in which SMEs need to access finance to bridge the gap and noted that the major banks had recently launched hotlines to help these businesses bridge the divide.

Ms Carnell concluded by outlining that more than 30 lenders (35 at the time of writing) have also been confirmed as participants in the Coranavirus SME Guarantee Scheme, which provides three-year unsecured loans to small businesses with an optional six-month repayment holiday. The government has said it will guarantee 50 per cent of these loans in a bid to support up to $40 billion of lending by 30 September 2020.

Ms Carnell concluded by saying that there were some “very positive” loans being offered by lenders – both banks and non-bank lenders – under the scheme, adding: “[Y]our broker will certainly be able to tell you who is available [to lend]…

“My experience is that everyone – the banks and the financial institutions – are stepping up to the mark here and doing their absolute best to help.”

Reckon CEO Sam Allert agreed, adding: “In the midst of a crisis, we’ve really seen the best of big business and communities, and everyone coming out with information trying to support small business.”

You can watch the MyBusiness webinar discussing all elements of the government’s $130-billion JobKeeper stimulus measure, how businesses can apply for JobKeeper (and why they should do it now), as well as the key dates and more, here.

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