The Government will provide interest-free loans of up to $100,000 to small businesses grappling with the impacts of Covid-19, after banks failed to meet the Government's expectations.

The loans are available for a year and will be offered to businesses with 50 or fewer full-time equivalent staff.

But the loans are only available to businesses which have had their revenue hit by more than 30 per cent due to Covid-19.

In a statement, Finance Minister Grant Robertson appeared to be disappointed in banks' lending to help businesses impacted by Covid-19.


"It has become clear that the support that is available to our small and medium businesses from banks is not meeting their needs nor our expectations as a government," he said.

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The scheme will provide $10,000 to every firm and in addition $1800 per equivalent full-time employee.

That means if a firm has three full-time equivalent workers, it would receive $15,400 – $10,000 as a base loan and $5400 for all three employees.

A firm with 50 full-time workers would get the full $100,000 – $10,000 as a base loan and $90,000 for its 50 employees.

The loans are only interest-free if they are paid back within a year, Robertson said.

After that, the interest rate will be 3 per cent for a maximum term of five years. Repayments are not required for the first two years, he confirmed.

The money can be used to cover rent payment, insurance, utilities, supplier payments and rates, Robertson said.


But the loan cannot be passed through to shareholders or owners of businesses through dividends.

Revenue Minister Stuart Nash said the scheme was designed to give small businesses access to cashflow to meet their fixed costs.

"We recognise that many businesses have had little or no revenue through alert level 4 and level 3."

He said the conditions for the loans are the same as they are for the wage subsidy scheme.

That means businesses need to have been "viable" going into Covid-19, and they need to show their revenue has been impacted by at least 30 per cent as a result of the pandemic.

"These kinds of terms are not available anywhere else," Nash said.


New Zealand Bankers' Association chief executive Roger Beaumont welcomed the scheme.

"We welcome Treasury simplifying their scheme rules, as a result of industry feedback. We hope this means more customers are able to participate in the scheme for their longer-term needs."

The scheme will be administered by Inland Revenue who will be taking applications from May 12, and will pay out very shortly thereafter, Nash said.

The Government is also making changes today to the criteria for the previously announced Business Finance Guarantee Scheme, including removing the requirement for a General Security Agreement.