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Grants and loans to help your business during the coronavirus pandemic
31 Mar 2020
UPDATE: On 5 January 2021 the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced one-off top up grants for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses worth up to £9,000 per property to help businesses through to the Spring. More information can be found here.
 
 
It is difficult to overstate the impact that the Covid-19 outbreak has had on businesses across the country. The Government has announced a package of measures to help companies and their employees during the crisis. 
Here, FBC Manby Bowdler solicitor Jonathan Moss answers some of your key questions.
 
Q: What financial support is now available?
There are a number of ways the Government is helping businesses. The Chancellor has launched a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, Business Rates Holiday scheme and Small Business Grant Funding scheme among others. Details of all these schemes are available at https://www.businesssupport.gov.uk/coronavirus-business-support/
 
Q: What is the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme?
This UK-wide scheme is being delivered through commercial lenders to provide loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance of up to £5 million over six years to small and medium-sized businesses. 
It is being backed by the Government-owned British Business Bank and also includes a Business Interruption Payment to cover the first 12 months of interest payments and any fees imposed by the lender.
To be eligible your businesses must be based in the UK with turnover of no more than £45 million per year and meet the other British Business Bank eligibility criteria.
 
Q: How do I access the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme?
Apply through your lender’s website or through one of the 40 accredited finance providers offering the scheme, which includes all the major banks. It is now open for applications. It’s worth speaking to your accountant first, there’s a number of hoops to jump through to access the funds.
 
Q: What is the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
This scheme offers employers the chance to furlough employees who they would otherwise have been forced to lay off and receive support to continue paying their salary during the crisis. All UK employers with a PAYE scheme that was created and started on or before 28 February 2020 can access the scheme. You can find out more about this here.
 
Q: How does this scheme work?
Employers can receive a grant worth 80% of an employee’s usual wage costs, up to £2,500 a month, plus the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on that subsidised wage. 

All UK-wide employers with a PAYE scheme that was created and started on or before 28 February 2020 will be eligible so long as they have a UK bank account. The scheme will remain open until the end of October.

 

Q: What help is available after 31 October?

From 1 November the new Job Support Scheme (JSS) will replace the furlough scheme. This was announed in the Winter Economy Plan by the Chancellor in September.

 
Q: Do I need to do anything to access the Business Rates Holiday for Retail, Hospitality and Leisure?
In a word, no. Under this support, businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors in England will not have to pay business rates for the 2020-21 tax year. Local authorities will automatically apply the scheme to businesses which qualify. More information is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/business-rates-retail-discount-guidance 
 
Q: What help is available for small businesses?
Up to 700,000 small businesses which qualify for Small Business Rate Relief are also now eligible for a £10,000 cash grant. It is anticipated that this will also apply to those eligible for rural rates relief. Again, you do not need to do anything to claim this grant – it will be applied automatically.
 
Q: Can I defer my VAT?
Yes – and the Government will do it for you automatically for all VAT payments due between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020. All VAT-registered UK businesses are eligible and registered businesses will not need to make VAT payments normally due with VAT returns during this period. Taxpayers will be given until the end of the 2020-21 tax year to pay any liabilities that have accumulated during the deferral period. 
 
Q: What are the rules with regard to Statutory Sick Pay?

Small and medium-sized businesses will be to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay paid for staff sickness absence due to coronavirus. The refund will cover up to two weeks of SSP. To be eligible your business must be UK based and have fewer than 250 employees.

These are just a small selection of the questions facing businesses during this unprecedented time.