Bank Hapoalim announced new measures to assist small businesses Sunday, promising to double the availability of credit to NIS 2 billion, reduce service fees and provide free support.The amount of credit available in the bank’s “Hapoalim Growth” fund, launched earlier this year, will increase three-fold to NIS 300 million. Subject to government approval, the bank will also double to NIS 1.4b. its contribution to a special state-guaranteed fund for small businesses.Small businesses will see their service fees halved from NIS 6.5 to NIS 3.25 in the coming year, first-year businesses will be exempt from all basic fees, and free business support will be provided by an external consultation firm.“Small businesses are the backbone of the economy,” Bank Hapoalim CEO Zion Keinan said. “In a time of economic slowdown, Bank Hapoalim continues to lead with measures that aid these businesses to deal with the many challenges before them.“As we promised at the beginning of this year, small- and medium-sized business will continue to stand at the center of our attention, and the bank expects to launch further financial and advisory tools to help them achieve growth and prosperity. Small businesses help provide jobs, including in the periphery, and this fact is particularly important given the recent statistics that showed increased unemployment.”Hapoalim launched its “Year of Small Business” three months ago, establishing the above mentioned funds and services, plus another fund in conjunction with the Manufacturers Association. It said Sunday that it made the decision to increase credit because of high demand.In the past three months, it said, Hapoalim Growth has granted NIS 90m. in credit to around 450 small businesses.