Six-month loan repayment deferrals for small businesses amid coronavirus crisis

| 20.03,20. 12:59 PM |

Six-month loan repayment deferrals for small businesses amid coronavirus crisis

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The Australian Banking Association (ABA) says all small businesses hit by the coronavirus pandemic will be able to access a six-month deferral of all loan repayments.

ABA chief executive Anna Bligh said the relief package would apply to more than $100 billion in small business loans and expected it could put $8 billion back into the pockets of these companies.

"Small business can rest assured that if they need help they will get it," she said.

Ms Bligh said the banks were yet to see households going into mortgage stress as a result of COVID-19 but would reassess their approach if the situation changed.

"If we start to see any other critical need … that's something that [the banks] know they'll need to look at," she said.

Soon after the announcement, NAB said home loan customers could pause repayments for up to six months. The bank has also cut its fixed-rate home loans by 60 basis points.

It comes after the Reserve Bank cut interest rates to a record low 0.25 per cent on Thursday and announced extraordinary measures to help prevent a coronavirus-driven recession.

The RBA will buy Australian government bonds as part of its first-ever quantitative easing program, and provide a three-year funding facility to provide cheap loans for Australian banks.

"I know that the decision yesterday by the Reserve Bank to inject low-interest loans into those banks that may be able to lend out into the sector was very welcome by banks," Ms Bligh said.

"There are many small businesses that are struggling with loan repayments, and this deferral will help them.

Small businesses employ around five million Australians.

Ms Bligh said the banks had been in discussions with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and regulators ahead of Friday's announcement.

"We are now in extraordinary and very difficult times," she said.

"This is a moment when the country needs to see all of its institutions working together cooperatively and in the national interest."

Competition watchdog the ACCC has provided interim authorisation to allow the banks to work together to implement the small business relief package.

"We recognise the urgency of this issue. We consider that this relief package will enable banks to quickly provide relief to impacted businesses, and allow them to keep employing their staff," chairman Rod Sims said.

"Importantly, interim authorisation does not mean that individual banks can't decide to offer more favourable and tailored terms to their small business customers experiencing financial hardship during these times."

Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said NAB's personal home loan decision would build confidence in the economy.

"I think any measure that provides support to borrowers at this time is worthy of support," he said.

"NAB have shown some leadership here. We're very supportive of measures that have been announced, particularly by all the

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