Canadian banks to hand out interest-free loans to small businesses

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TORONTO (Reuters) - Small and medium-sized businesses in Canada that have been affected by the coronavirus crisis were able to begin enrolling in a program to apply for interest-free loans of up to C$40,000 on Thursday, according to the Canadian Bankers’ Association.

As part of a number of measures announced by the federal government, the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) program enables qualifying small businesses to apply online through their current lenders for the loans, a quarter of which is forgivable if repaid by Dec. 31, 2022.

Scotiabank BNS.TO has so far approved the loans for 3,750 customers, over C$150 million, the bank said in an e-mailed statement on Thursday.

In March, the "big six" lenders - Royal Bank of Canada RY.TO, TD Bank TD.TO, Scotiabank, Bank of Montreal BMO.TO, CIBC and National Bank of Canada NA.TO - announced a coordinated effort to offer mortgage relief to customers suffering pay disruption as businesses grind to a halt.

Reporting by Anirban Sen in Bangalore and Nichola Saminather in Toronto; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and David Gregorio