Small and medium-size businesses can start applying for loans under a $2.5 billion scheme beginning today. The scheme, aimed at helping businesses that cannot get funds from banks, is part of economic relief measures announced by the Chief Executive on June 22. So far, 26 banks or deposit-taking companies have signed up, while a further 14 have said they will. Legislator Hui Cheung-ching, representing the Import and Export functional constituency, welcomed the move. 'The response was quite good. It seems more have signed up over the past two days,' he said. Each firm can apply for a guarantee from the Government of up to $2 million, or up to 50 per cent of a loan offered by a lending institution, whichever is less. The money can be offered as a loan or a new credit line and the guarantee period is for a maximum of one year. 'Other than those limitations on the use of the loans which may be imposed by the lending institutions, the scheme will not impose limitations on the specific uses of the loans,' a government spokesman said. The lending institutions will decide the interest. It is expected that the scheme could support 1,250 small and medium enterprises in the first year. Information on the scheme is available from district offices, the Industry Department, Trade Department, Hong Kong Export Credit Insurance Corporation, participating lending institutions and major industry and trade organisations. The banks or deposit-taking companies joining the scheme are: Banca Commerciale Italiana; Bangkok Bank Public Company; Bank of America (Asia); Bank of East Asia; Chiyu Banking Corporation; Citibank, N.A; CITIC Ka Wah Bank; Dah Sing Bank; Hong Kong Chinese Bank; Jian Sing Bank; Kwangtung Provincial Bank; Liu Chong Hing Bank; Sin Hua Bank; Union Bank of Hong Kong; Wing Lung Bank; Yien Yieh Commercial Bank; Allied Capital Resources; Dah Sing Finance; Delta Asia Credit; Dharmala International Finance; Edward Wong Credit; Ka Wah International Merchant Finance; Liu Chong Hing Finance; Orient First Capital; Sin Hua Finance Company; Wing On Finance Company.