More UK banks join scheme to help virus-hit small firms

The spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in London

(Reuters) – Britain has approved four new lenders to offer government-backed loans to struggling small businesses damaged by the coronavirus outbreak, under the multi-billion pound Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS).

The four banks – Co-operative, Cynergy, OakNorth and Starling – join more than 40 existing CBILS accredited lenders, the government-backed British Business Bank (BBB) said in a statement on Saturday.

The banks would now be setting up operations required to start lending under the rescue scheme and will soon confirm the dates from which they will be ready to start receiving CBILS applications, BBB said.

The scheme was first announced by Britain’s finance minister Rishi Sunak on March 17 as part of a 330 billion pound ($409 billion) support package for businesses hit by the country’s lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

It has been beset by problems, with many businesses struggling to access cash quickly or finding they were ineligible, while some digital lenders were also excluded. The scheme was revised earlier this month to widen its scope.

(Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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