Call to action – Supporting SMEs’ access to COVID-19 support funding via professional advice

EFAA for SMEs, together with SMEunited, Accountancy Europe and ACCA, asks for action to ensure that SMEs have better access to professional advice on the most appropriate COVID-19 recovery measures

7 December 2020 – The COVID-19 crisis continues to have a huge negative impact on hundreds of thousands of Small and Medium-Sized Entities (SMEs). The European Union (EU) and national governments are already addressing the issue, having set up strong support measures to assist companies including SMEs, that collectively provide two thirds of all jobs in the EU, and account for more than half of Europe’s GDP.

However, these support measures will only be effective if SMEs can actually smoothly access them and are able to use the funding in most efficient ways. There are several challenges to this:

  • The current landscape of SME funding and COVID support across the EU is complex. SMEs are busy with immediate crisis management and often do not have the time, capacity or knowledge to identify the sources of funding and support available to them
  • The application processes and eligibility requirements to access the funds can be burdensome, complex and prone to mistakes
  • SMEs may struggle to identify the best ways to invest the funding to prepare for a resilient and sustainable post-COVID future

Therefore, SMEunited, Accountancy Europe, EFAA for SMEs and ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) recommend the following actions:

  • The European Commission and national governments should fully and at early stage involve experts from SME associations and the accountancy profession in discussions, planning and design of SME support schemes to ensure their efficiency. This includes them also being involved in identifying sectors and business types most in need, and to act as a contact between SMEs in distress and the public authorities
  • Governments should ensure that SMEs are able to access professional advice as it is already the case in certain EU member states, such as in Ireland where the Covid-19 Business Financial Planning Grant programme provides entrepreneurs with 100% funding of up to €5,000 to access an approved financial consultant’s advice, or Finland where the national innovation support vouchers also cover professional advice.
  • Include these provisions in National Recovery and Resilience plans under the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility and Budget for 2021
  • An overall simplification and, where relevant, harmonisation of the support application requirements and procedures across different EU and national support funds, including a better coordination between all involved stakeholders to make procedures as seamless as possible.