LOANS released under the government’s assistance program for small businesses have topped P2 billion to date, or under 20% of the program’s funding.

The Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) Small Business Corp. (SB Corp.) was allocated P10 billion for lending to micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises under Republic Act No. 11494, the second stimulus package known as Bayanihan II.

Prior to the implementation of Bayanihan II, the company also had around P1 billion in initial funds for the COVID-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises program, which was designed to provide a lifeline to businesses affected by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

The DTI in a message to reporters Wednesday said more than P2 billion had been released to 19,601 applicants. Approved applications numbered 21,358 for loans worth over P2.2 billion.

Senators expressed concerns about the delays in the release of loan funds during plenary deliberations on the 2021 budget last year. Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said at the time that SB Corp. was in the process of improving its capacity for reviewing applications.

SB Corp. missed its original target of assisting 50,000 borrowers by the end of 2020, with loan processing hitting a monthly rate of 15,000 to 18,000 borrowers. — Jenina P. Ibañez