Hundreds apply to Gesher Fund

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It’s been just short of two weeks since the launch of the Gesher Fund, envisioned by Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein and led by community leaders, which provides interest-free loans to small-to-medium-sized Jewish businesses battling under the coronavirus lockdown in South Africa.
by TALI FEINBERG | May 21, 2020

In these two weeks, the fund has received hundreds of expressions of interest through its website, says chairperson Martin Sacks. “We have received initial donor funds, and are hoping to start paying away late this week or early next week,” he says.

Sacks says expressions of interest are a “high-level indication of the nature of the applicant’s business and the proposed size of loan requested. At this stage, a brief application form needs to be completed, which is phase 1. If the applicant is eligible in terms of the key qualifying criteria of the fund, certain additional information is requested, which is phase 2.

“A relatively small percentage of the expressions of interest have completed phase-1 applications, and a percentage of those have completed phase-2 applications,” says Sacks. “Phase-2 applications are being reviewed by our evaluation teams comprising more than 40 volunteer businesspeople and bankers nationwide. Our evaluation teams are, in most instances, also advising and assisting the applicants with many of the challenges they are facing, and helping them to evaluate appropriate funding options.”

In the past two weeks, the fund has “set up the necessary entities from a regulatory perspective, and put in place the governance, dedicated resources, and systems to manage the organisation and processing of applications responsibly and cost effectively”.

Sacks says a number of applicants haven’t qualified for Gesher loans, for example, if the requests are more personal than business in nature. These applicants have been directed elsewhere for assistance.

“We are working to understand the gaps between expressions of interest and completed applications in review, and today, [19 May],we are sending out a brief survey to all those who expressed initial interest.”

There are some challenges. “One of the issues is that the banks’ COVID-19 loan scheme was launched only a week ago, and they are ironing out their own issues around credit and processing,” says Sacks. “A number of initial applicants are still in negotiations with landlords and creditors and getting a better assessment of their operating and working capital needs arising from COVID-19-related dislocation.

He concludes: “The Chevrah Kadisha has provided incredible operational and administrative assistance during the set-up phase, notwithstanding the fact that it’s increasingly stretched itself, financially and otherwise, during this time.”

1 Comment

  1. 1 John Goldreich 21 May
    I applied for help from this fund,but have not received any reply at all. 
    thank you,

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