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Loans, grants for micro online firms




ONLINE selling is the name of the game as the world grapples with COVID-19 and physical distancing has become the norm. (PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF NRF)

When the coronavirus pandemic struck the world early this year, online transactions thrived due to lockdowns and quarantine restrictions.

But not all sellers earn enough, hence a bill that will provide a range of support in the form of loans and grants, training, and registration assistance is most welcome.

Dubbed as saviors of the COVID-19 economy, online firms will benefit from HB 7698, or the Online Small Enterprise Support Services Act of 2020, which proposed that online businesses with less than P1 million in annual sales be eligible for loans from government banks, free credit reports, grants and training from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and other benefits and assistance.

“We will see far more unemployment and less poverty if Filipino households turn to small online businesses,” bill author Albay Rep. Joey Salceda said.

While online businesses have sprung up over the past few months, many are unregistered. Instead of punishing them for simply trying to make a living, Salceda wants them registered and assisted.

“If you’re a small online business, you serve the economy, whether registered or not, but we will offer generous benefits if you register and pay taxes. It’s a fair and humane deal,” he said.

Salceda is also the author of the Digital Economy Taxation Act, which targets large digital corporations to help fund COVID-19 efforts and improve the digital economy.

“The digital economy is the future. That is why we are already laying the building blocks for a strong digital economy. If we delay these reforms, we will face painful consequences as this segment of economy continues to grow,” he explained.

HB 7698 aims to provide adequate capital and credit access for individuals seeking to operate small online enterprises by mandating government banks to offer small business loans at competitive rates, and by providing small online businesses with free credit reports and credit scores.

It also aims to facilitate the registration and operation of such enterprises, and streamline government support services relevant to their needs, by creating a portal for all support services.