We will do whatever it takes to support businesses and jobs

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has pledged a further £350 billion package – that’s the equivalent of 15 percent of GDP – to support people and businesses. I know that many people and businesses are very worried about the future and about getting by from day to day. The Government is listening and will be making further announcements in the coming days and weeks to ensure that, wherever possible, we keep businesses going and safeguard jobs.

These latest measures are designed to help businesses pay their rent, employees’ salaries, pay suppliers or purchase stock using a government backed loan. There will also be a three-month mortgage holiday for those having difficulty in paying their mortgage because of the virus. Details of how the Government will support those in rented accommodation will follow in the next few days.

The Chancellor will go further in the coming days and work with trades unions and businesses to develop employment support for those who have lost income. I would very much expect and will press for support for sole traders and micro businesses.

Additional measures include:

Business Support

  • All businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors, irrespective of their rateable value, are exempt from business rates for 12 months which will include every single shop, pub, theatre, music venue, restaurant, and any other business in these categories. Any business in these sectors with a rateable value of less than £51,000 can now get access to a government grant scheme of £25,000.
  • All businesses in any sector who currently qualify for the Small Business Rates Relief will get a cash grant of £10,000
  • Liquidity support for large companies, with a major new scheme being launched by the Bank of England.
  • Lending support for small and medium-sized businesses by extending the Business Interruption Loan Scheme which was announced in the Budget. This means that, rather than providing loans of £1.2 million, it will provide loans of up to £5 million, with no interest for the first six months.

Contact your bank for the Business Interruption Loan Scheme and your district council for the business rate grants.

Sick pay support

Small and medium-sized businesses can reclaim eligible SSP costs as soon as possible.

The criteria for eligible businesses are:

  • The refund will be limited to two weeks per employee who has claimed SSP as a result of Covid-19.
  • Employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible
  • Employers should keep records but should not require employees to provide a doctor’s note.
  • The eligible period will commence from the day on which regulations extending SSP come into force.

Sick pay for the self-isolated

SSP will be available from day one for people who have COVID-19. This will be extended to those who are unable to work because they have been advised to self-isolate as well as for people within the same household who display symptoms. Those who are advised to self-isolate will able to obtain a doctor’s note via NHS 111 as medical evidence for SSP.

Those who are ineligible for Statutory Sick Pay will have quicker and easier access to benefits from Day 1 rather than Day 8. People will be able to claim Universal Credit and access advanced payments without the current requirement to attend a job centre. The requirement of the minimum income floor in Universal Credit for those directly affected by COVID-19 or self-isolating will be relaxed.

Additional help

Businesses and self-employed people may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time to Pay service. Arrangements are agreed case-by-case. Businesses can contact HMRC’s new dedicated COVID-19 helpline from 11 March 2020 for advice.

£500 million Hardship Fund for Local Authorities to support economically vulnerable people and households in their local area. Some of which will be used to provide more council tax relief.