Government Loans for Small Business

Consider whether your business is eligible for government funding when comparing finance options with Savvy today.

Last updated on June 8th, 2022 at 12:49 pm by Bill Tsouvalas

Government grants and funding for Australian businesses

Depending on where you’re operating in Australia, there’s a wide range of funding options on offer provided by both federal and state governments. It’s important to know whether your business is eligible, as it can help ease some of the potential financial strain. You can also compare more loan options from Australian lenders with Savvy.

What government funding is available for small businesses?

Various government initiatives at both state and federal levels operate in Australia with the aim of generating more business activity in Australian communities and enhancing economic output. While direct small business loans are not available from the government, there are plenty of grant programs available which cater to a variety of business niches. Government grants can be applied for through official federal and state government portals. Anybody with the right to conduct business in Australia can apply for a grant. Some examples of these programs include:

New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS)

Accessible across all states, this scheme is geared towards assisting people who work less than 25 hours per week to start their own business, provided they have already devised a viable business idea and meet other eligibility requirements such as age (over 18) and residential status (citizen, permanent resident or valid visa holder). The program provides income and assistance for the duration of your involvement in the scheme, as well as business training which can help you successfully establish and run your business. The NEIS program can provide assistance to the tune of around $20,000.

CSIRO Kick-Start program

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) offers matched funding through their Kick-Start program, which can come in from $10,000 to $50,000. This is done to enable businesses operating for under three years with annual turnover of under $1.5 million to explore their research idea with the backing and guidance the CSIRO. Businesses must also show that they’re able to match the funding offered as part of their Kick-Start project dollar for dollar.

Regional Development Australia

To help drive development in Australia’s regions, this program provides funding to incubate or support new and existing businesses outside of major metropolitan areas. Provided your business plan aligns with current government-mandated development goals and is active in a regional community, this can be a viable option to access capital. This grant can potentially provide millions in capital applicants who can demonstrate legitimate need and effective planned use of funds.

Are government small business loans better than unsecured business loans?

Usually not – it’s important to note that, for a variety of reasons, government grants are often not a viable option for small businesses when it comes to securing their financing. As such, unsecured business loans are often the best option to suit your business’ needs, especially when you’re operating with a smaller budget and fewer resources.

There are several key differences between government funding and regular business loans which are helpful to keep in mind when assessing which is the correct avenue for your business, so it’s important to compare your options with Savvy. The primary differences include:

Government funding Business loans
Eligibility criteria

Government programs for business funding generally have restrictive eligibility criteria designed to limit grant recipients to those business owners whose goals align with government development policies. Criteria differs between different types of government funding; however, points that you should expect to meet are:

  • Specific business aims, such as contributing to the arts in your community.
  • Business activity that falls into specifically targeted growth sectors such as technology and agriculture.
  • Provision of considerable investment to match the grant amount (either from yourself or outside investors).

The criteria for business loans are far less specific than for a government grant and are easier to meet, with a minimum requirement being that you can provide copies of yours and your business’ financial situation and photo ID.

Some lenders such as online business financiers will only require you to have been in business for six to 12 months and generate a minimum monthly revenue of over $5,000, while others such as banks will require you to provide security.

 

Usage

Government funding is often contingent on the use of said funds being committed to a specific purpose, as mentioned above. This is often far more restrictive and prevents businesses from making use of the much-needed funds in broader areas that may need more pressing investment.

Unsecured business loans, in contrast, aren’t at all restrictive when it comes to how you use them. These can be applied to any business-related purpose you require, such as paying for further inventory, funding staff wages or simply boosting company cash flow.

Borrowing range

Because government support for small businesses is drawn from a large net sum intended for support across an entire sector, the amount that you will be likely to receive might be limited in comparison to a loan from the likes of a major bank. You will also be limited in this regard as often grants will require you to match the grant amount with your own capital. Generally, you should not expect to receive grants for amounts over $1,000,000.

Business loan lenders can offer flexible borrowing ranges to cater to business needs across the board, typically ranging from as little as $5,000 up to $300,000, provided your business has the means to make its repayments. However, interest rates can make them more expensive overall.

Ease of application

Grant applications often entail a lot of upfront work such as writing project proposals, impact forecasts and risk assessments, all without the guarantee of approval. Sometimes this process can be so complex that grant writers can even be employed to maximise your chances of approval, making the application process even more involved. It is not unusual for a grant cycle to take between six and 12 months from public offering to approval and distribution of funds.

 

Business lenders can typically offer streamlined application processes that make them one the simplest ways to access finance for your business, with some even offering same-day approval for unsecured credit.

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You should always consult a given offer's PDS or further documentation in the process of deciding on which loan to choose, as well as seeking independent, professional advice. If you decide to apply with one of the lenders listed above via our website, you will not be dealing with Savvy; any applications or enquiries will be conducted directly with the lender offering that product.

Still unsure about your best small business loan option?

Is there any way I can get a guaranteed small business loan from the government?

Unfortunately, neither the federal nor state or territory governments can offer guaranteed small business loans, leaving grant applications as the only avenue for receiving government funding. It’s also not possible to get guaranteed approval for small business loans, bad credit or not; all lenders will exercise their discretion when assessing your application. 

Are there small business grants available from the government specifically for people who are receiving Centrelink benefits?

For those who are receiving payments from Centrelink, small business micro-grants are available from the government which offer would-be business people up to $3,000 in starting costs to launch their small business. These funds can be a useful first step if you are only at the beginning of your business journey and are looking to carry out activities such as market testing, building your minimal viable product or purchasing equipment such as tools. Alternatively, small business loans are still available while on Centrelink.

How can I maximise my chances of having my application for a government small business grant approved?

It is important when making a small business grant application that you are as thorough as can be, meet and exceed the stated eligibility requirements and can provide supporting material for the efficacy of your project. This can include items such as impact assessments, professional references, financial forecasts and overviews of your projects stated aims and likely outcomes. It will also help if you are able to provide a considerable portion of funding from another source other than government grants or can demonstrate that you will receive support of other types from third parties, such as pro-bono consulting or in-kind donations.

Where should I go to apply for a small business grant to secure funding from the government?

All government grant applications are lodged online through either your state or federal government grant portal. Once you have found the grant that is best suited for your business to apply to, all you will need to do is follow the appropriate links to be directed to the necessary portal. Grant applications can take a considerable amount of time to be completed thoroughly, so make sure that you are able to commit an amount of time that you feel does your business goals justice.

Do I have to repay my business’ government grant?

No – government grants generally don’t require any repayments; the funds are being provided to you by the government to assist your business without the expectation that you’ll pay them back.

Can I access government funding for my small business as a cashflow reserve?

No – government grants are not suitable for use as reserve capital for your small business because they must be awarded to businesses that will deploy said capital to meet specific goals which align with government policy. For this reason, if you are seeking finance or a ‘cushion’ for your business, a business line of credit might be your best option. This loan type allows you to access a pool of credit when your business requires it and can be a useful middle ground between taking out a regular small business loan and maintaining a business credit card.

Are there government grants available to female business owners?

Yes – it’s important to keep an eye on the federal government website and that of your state to see which offers are currently available to women in business. If there aren’t any opportunities your business qualifies for right now, though, commercial loans for women are still highly available through online lenders.