Russian state-run banks VTB and Sberbank will offer companies interest-free salary loans to ensure they can keep paying workers during the coronavirus crisis, RBC reported on Thursday citing deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov.
Speaking at a meeting between President Vladimir Putin and business owners, Belousov said the two banks will launch the pilot initiative next week, with backing from the Bank of Russia, for an initial period of six months, which could be further extended if the situation does not improve.
VTB’s press service told RBC that the bank is preparing a number of initiatives to help small and medium-sized businesses.
“One of them provides for the provision of short-term loans to enterprises at preferential subsidized rates. They can be based on existing state programs to support SMEs,” the press service said, adding that details are still being discussed by the government, the central bank, and major credit organizations.
Moscow has this week stepped up its efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus and support Russian consumers and businesses as economic activity drops sharply. Putin has repeatedly said that the government’s main objective on the economic front is to prevent a jump in unemployment, and his government has stressed the importance of not firing workers to employers.
He unveiled a package of measures in a speech to the nation Wednesday including extra unemployment benefits, higher payments for families with children and debt vacations for small businesses.