Govt’s Covid Loans May Have Saved up to Half-a-Million Businesses and 2.9 Million Jobs

The first in a series of reports evaluating the government’s Covid-19 emergency loan schemes has found that hundreds of thousands of jobs could have been lost without the £78bn of funding guaranteed under the schemes.

In March 2020, in response to the global pandemic and corresponding wide-ranging business impacts and uncertainty, the government rapidly designed and deployed a series of three loan-guarantee schemes – the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) and Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS).

These aimed to support smaller businesses across the UK which were experiencing lost or deferred revenues, leading to disruptions to their cashflow.

One year later, the British Business Bank commissioned London Economics and Ipsos to undertake a multi-year evaluation of the three schemes. The first phase of the evaluation, published this week, provides an early assessment of whether the objectives of the schemes were satisfied, and their impact.This is an ea

rly assessment of the impact of the Covid-19 loan guarantee schemes, and will be refined as more data becomes available and the medium- to long-term impacts of the schemes become clearer.

It is estimated that in the absence of the Covid-19 loan guarantee schemes, an additional 10%-34% of BBLS borrowers (146,000 to 505,000 businesses) and an additional 7%-28% of CBILS/CLBILS borrowers¹ (5,000 to 21,000 businesses) could have permanently ceased trading in 2020.

It is also estimated that 0.5 million to 2.9 million jobs could have been lost in the absence of the schemes. The most common uses of the funds were working capital and to provide financial security.

Common actions undertaken by borrowers since raising external finance from one of the schemes included the adoption or expansion of digital technologies, innovation activities or building business resilience.

The Covid-19 loan guarantee schemes met their primary objectives of unlocking credit for businesses at scale and speed and resulted in £78bn in guaranteed loan facilities, reaching just over a quarter of smaller businesses² in the UK³.

Loans were generally either used to fund operational expenses or to boost reserves and resilience to unexpected shocks, and guaranteed lending may have had a significant protective effect.

The introduction of BBLS helped ease pressure on lenders and accelerated timescales for loan approvals.

270,000 Bounce Back Loans were issued in the first week, and close to 800,000 in the first month. Had lenders conducted their standard checks on such a volume of applications, it would have created an extensive backlog with smaller businesses waiting significantly longer for a loan during which period the survival of the business may have been at risk.

British Business Bank CEO Catherine Lewis La Torre said, “The Covid-19 emergency loan schemes were designed to address a drastically altered economic landscape for smaller businesses as lockdowns took effect.”

“This evaluation is the first indication of just how important those schemes were in saving livelihoods, businesses and hundreds of thousands of jobs, and we are proud to have played a vital role in their delivery.”

National Chair of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), Martin McTague said, “As the pandemic first took hold, FSB campaigned hard to get as much support for as many small businesses and self-employed as possible.”

“The emergency loans were among the most important lifelines, and the British Business Bank worked collaboratively and effectively with us to make sure there was a guaranteed finance option for even the smallest of businesses.

“As today’s findings demonstrate, this swift action prevented vast numbers of businesses from going under; protecting jobs, livelihoods, and enabling these firms to be part of the economic recovery.”

Chris Wilford, Director of Financial Services Policy at the CBI said, “The Covid Loan Schemes made a critical difference to businesses of all sizes across every region and nation of the UK.”

“Without this vital lifeline, hundreds of thousands of otherwise viable businesses, jobs and livelihoods would have been lost.

“The tireless work of the government, the British Business Bank and lenders throughout the crisis really mattered. It is important we build on this collaboration as we face into future challenges.”

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