Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett has announced that the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Jamaica National Small Business Loans Ltd (JNSBL) to make $70 million accessible to operators in the tourism ground transportation sub-sector, who have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Minister Bartlett made the announcement as he provided an update on the recovery of the tourism sector in Parliament yesterday (June 29).
“I am happy to announce that we have finalized plans for our latest relief initiative for tourism workers. The Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) has put in motion an injection of J$70 million to support tourism ground transportation operators who have suffered tremendously from the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic and the massive downturn in tourism over the last year,” Minister Bartlett expressed.
“The loans, become accessible at any JN Branch starting July 1, 2021, and will be offered at zero percent interest rate; with an 8-month moratorium on the principal and a maximum repayment period of three years, with no processing fees,” Minister Bartlett said.
The loan facility was first announced by Minister Bartlett during his Sectoral Debate closing presentation in Parliament on June 15. During his presentation, Mr. Bartlett described the TEF intervention as “The Default Clearance Loan.”
He explained that it can be accessed from JNSBL and will allow borrowers to receive up to a maximum of J$1 million in monthly instalments for up to 12 months.
Minister Bartlett had also outlined that: “It was agreed that the loans will be unsecured, as the challenges surrounding collateralizing the loans will prevent some operators from accessing the facility, especially those who are in the greatest need of this form of aid to remain sustainable.”
In collaboration with JNSBL, the application process has been made easy, and to facilitate even more applicants, the TEF has secured the services of certified accountants to assist the applicants in preparing the Cash Flow Statements that are required as part of the application.
Minister Bartlett outlined that the accountants have facilitated over 40 drivers since Saturday, June 26th, 2021, with others currently being assisted.
The introduction of the loan facility follows appeals by members of the transportation sub-sector for assistance.
In a recent virtual forum hosted by the Tourism Linkages Network (TLN), on how tourism has impacted other sectors, President of the Jamaica Co-operative Automobile and Limousine Tours (JCAL), Brian Thelwell, underscored the importance of ground transportation to tourism and called for financial support for operators to prepare them for the recovery of the industry. He implored banks in particular, to be more lenient with those having outstanding loans.
“The COVID-19 Relief loan facility will be available to members of JUTA, JCAL and MAXI ground transportation providers who must meet a number of eligibility criteria,” Mr. Bartlett said.
More than 5,000 transport operators in the tourism sector have been impacted negatively by the forced lockdown of the tourism sector last year, due to the pandemic.