How small businesses can access the government's coronavirus support

How small businesses can access the government's coronavirus support
Dan Martin
Dan MartinDan Martin Content & Events

Posted: Tue 11th May 2021

Dan Martin examines how businesses can access support from the UK government and devolved administrations for dealing with the impact of coronavirus.

We first published this post in March 2020 when the coronavirus outbreak first started to take hold. Chancellor Rishi Sunak outlined a range of measures to help businesses cope with the inevitable negative impact.

Since then the UK government and devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have made several more announcements on support for businesses.

We are keeping this post updated with details on how to access government coronavirus small business support. Get more support and advice on dealing with the business impact of coronavirus here.

Governments are regularly updating support schemes as restrictions change so the details below may not be the latest information. Here are government website links:

UK-wide: Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, also known as the furlough scheme, launched in April 2020 to help employers deal with the impact of coronavirus by receiving a grant from the government to cover a proportion of wages of employees placed on furlough.

The scheme officially closed on 30 September 2021 and 14 October 2021 was the last date to make a claim for September. However, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has announced that for claim periods from 1 November 2020, it may accept late claims or amendments if you have:

  • Taken reasonable care to try and claim on time.

  • A reasonable excuse.

  • Claimed as soon as your reasonable excuse no longer applies.

More details here.

UK-wide: Recovery Loan Scheme

Businesses can apply for loans and overdrafts between £25,001 and £10m and invoice finance and asset finance between £1,000 and £10m. The government provides an 80% guarantee to lenders but borrowers remain 100% liable for the debt.

Unlike previous COVID-19 business loan schemes, interest and fees need to be paid by the business from the outset.

Finance terms are up to six years for term loans and asset finance facilities. For overdrafts and invoice finance facilities, terms are up to three years.

No personal guarantees will be taken on facilities up to £250,000, and a borrower's principal private residence cannot be taken as security.

Business owners need to show their business is viable, although the British Business Bank said lenders "may disregard any concerns over its short-to-medium term business performance due to the uncertainty and impact of COVID-19".

The scheme was originally due to run until 31 December 2021 but in the Autumn Budget, the chancellor announced it has been extended until 30 June 2022.

More details here.

UK-wide: VAT reduction for hospitality, accommodation and attractions

Businesses in the hospitality, hotel and holiday accommodation sectors plus certain attractions could apply a 5% reduced rate of VAT until 30 September 2021. It increased on 1 October 2021 to 12.5%. That rate applies until 31 March 2022.

Find out if your business is eligible for VAT reduction.

UK-wide: Time to Pay tax deferral scheme

Businesses and self-employed people in financial distress and with outstanding tax liabilities may be eligible to receive further support through HMRC's Time To Pay service which allows payments to be deferred.

The service gives a 12 month extension to self-assessment taxpayers which means payments deferred from July 2020, and those due in January 2021, don't need to be paid until January 2022.

Businesses should contact HMRC's COVID-19 tax support helpline on 0800 0159 559. More information here.

HMRC will discuss your specific circumstances to explore:

  • Agreeing an instalment arrangement

  • Suspending debt collection proceedings

  • Cancelling penalties and interest where you have administrative difficulties contacting or paying HMRC immediately

England, Wales and Northern Ireland: Commercial rent

There is currently a moratorium on all commercial evictions for non-payment of rent accrued since March 2020 until 25 March 2022.

On 9 November, the government announced that businesses forced to close during the pandemic and unable to pay commercial rent will be protected from being taken to the court by their landlords under new laws announced today.

When the ban on evictions ends on 25 March 2022, companies will be protected from debt claims, such as County Court Judgements, issued against them for rent arrears accrued due to lockdown closures.

Ministers are establishing a new legally-binding arbitration process that landlords and tenants must adhere to after 25 March if they cannot negotiate an agreement.

Underpinning those negotiations is a new code of practice introduced from today. It says "tenants unable to pay in full should negotiate with their landlord in the expectation that the landlord waives some or all rent arrears where they are able to do so".

More details here.

England: Business rates relief

Eligible retail, hospitality and leisure properties in England receive 66% business rates relief from 1 July 2021 to 31 March 2022, capped at £2m per business for properties that were required to be closed on 5 January 2021, or £105,000 per business for other eligible properties.

In the Autumn Budget, chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a new, one-year 50% discount on business rates for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England, up to a maximum of £110,000.

England: Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG)

Through the ARG scheme, the government has provided local councils in England with funding to support closed businesses that do not directly pay business rates and businesses that do not have to close but are impacted by coronavirus restrictions.

Local councils can decide which businesses to support and how much funding to provide. It could include suppliers to the retail, hospitality, and leisure sectors and events businesses. There is a list of some of the grants available here.

Grants are provided by local councils. Find your local council website here.

Full government guidance is here.

Scotland: Business rates relief

Retail, hospitality, leisure, and aviation businesses will pay no business rates during 2021-22.

More details here.

Scotland: Scotland on Tour

Musicians, bands, artists and venues can apply to a £750,000 Scottish government fund to bring new and additional concerts to venues and festivals in Scotland next year. The fund is for professional musicians who have lost earnings as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Artists can apply for funding that covers touring costs such as vehicle hire, production, crew, accommodation and subsistence. Funding between £100 and £3,000 is available for each concert.

Venues and promoters can apply to cover costs such as venue hire, stewarding and marketing. Funding between £100 and £5,000 is available for each concert.

Festivals can apply for activity such as an additional stage or new venue to add to existing venues.

Applications close at 6pm on Monday 22 November 2021. Find out more and apply here.

Scotland: COVID-19 Ventilation Fund

Business premises can access grants of up to £2,500 through a new £25m scheme to improve ventilation and reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission.

It targets high risk settings where people come into close proximity such as restaurants, bars, theatres, cinema, gyms, hairdressers and barbers.

The following costs can be claimed for up to the individual maximum costs as long as it is within the overall cap of up to £2,500 per premises.

  • Purchasing and installation of standalone Co2 monitors (single spaces): Up to £200 each

  • Purchasing and installation of networked Co2 monitors (multiple spaces): Up to £200 per space, £200 gateway, £300-500 installation. Additional sensors (eg door opening, occupancy): Up to £150 each

  • Purchasing and installation of networked Co2 monitors (mechanically ventilated spaces): Up to £500 each

  • Purchase and installation of air filters/purifiers: Up to £250 each

  • Purchase and installation of window contact sensors: Up to £100 each

  • Window servicing (including assessment of needs, securing and costs of scaffolding if required): Up to £500 each

  • Purchase and Installing airbricks (including assessment of needs and costs of scaffolding if required): Up to £1,000 each

  • Purchase and Installing vents (including assessment of needs and costs of scaffolding if required): Up to £100 each

  • Unblocking windows/small repairs/enhancements (including purchasing any necessary related products): Up to £600 each

  • Purchasing and installation of small mechanical vent – extractor fan (including assessment of needs and costs of scaffolding if required): Up to £600 each

  • Purchasing and installation of monitoring equipment (including monitoring for large mechanical ventilation systems):Up to £500 each

  • Purchasing and fitting automatic openers for ceiling windows: Up to £200 each

  • Undercutting/raising non fire doors: Up to £150 each

Full details about the scheme are here. You can apply for funding here.

Wales: £35m fund to help businesses recover and grow

The Welsh government has announced a new £35m fund to help small and medium-sized businesses in Wales to "relaunch, develop, decarbonise and grow". It is expected that around 1,000 businesses will be supported.

Economy minister Vaughan Gething said: "The funding will offer businesses who need to re-invest - particularly following the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, our departure from the EU, and with a view to climate and Covid proofing - the opportunity to do so, in order to relaunch, develop and grow."

Grants will be delivered by local authorities with applications expected to open in November. Businesses will be expected to match fund any grants they receive.

More details here.

Wales: Business rates relief

Retail, leisure and hospitality businesses and charities in Wales will pay no business rates during 2021-22.

More details here.

Northern Ireland: Business rates relief

Retail, hospitality, leisure, childcare, newspapers, aviation and some manufacturing businesses will pay no business rates during 2021-22.

More details here.

Northern Ireland : Holiday at Home Voucher scheme

The Northern Ireland Executive announced the Holiday at Home Voucher scheme through which households will be able to claim back up to 50% of the cost of a stay of two nights or more in certified accommodation in Northern Ireland, up to £100.

Vouchers providing 50% off entry to tourist attractions up to the value of £20 will also be offered on a first come, first served basis.

The scheme has not yet launched.

Dan Martin
Dan MartinDan Martin Content & Events
I'm a freelance content creator and event host who helps small businesses and the organisations that support them. I have 18 years of experience as a small business journalist having interviewed hundreds of entrepreneurs from billionaires like Sir Richard Branson to the founders behind brand new start-ups. I've worked for a range of leading small business publications and support groups, most recently as head of content at Enterprise Nation where I was responsible for the prolific output of content on the company's blog and social media. I'm based in Bristol where I run and host regular events with the local small business community and have strong connections to major business organisations in the south west region. In total, I've hosted over 50 events; from intimate meet-ups to conferences with an audience of hundreds including events for international brands like Facebook and Xero. I'm also a big fan of podcasts having hosted Enterprise Nation's Small Business Sessions as well as lots of online events including Facebook Live interviews, webinars and three live web chats from inside 10 Downing Street. With my partner, I co-run Lifestyle District, a lifestyle blog focused on culture, art, theatre and photography. I'm here to help. I'm volunteering free advice calls of up to an hour as part of the Recovery Advice for Business scheme, over the next 6 months. Please get in touch to see how I can help your business. 

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