High Street and local businesses are asking what support they can expect to receive during the period of exceptional trading uncertainty as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
East Lothian Council, the Scottish Government and the UK Government have all announced measures to support business during what the Bank of England has described as an economic shock.
Commenting, Councillor Craig Hoy said: “Businesses are rightly very concerned about the impact of coronavirus and, as the situation deteriorates, it is clear that urgent action is needed at a local, Scottish and national level. I welcome recent announcements which should provide some reassurance to East Lothian firms as they prepare for what are unprecedented times for the business and retail operating environment.”
UPDATE – Measures announced on Friday:
The government has announced it will pay the wages of employees unable to work due to the coronavirus pandemic, in a move aimed at protecting people’s jobs.
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will cover the cost of wages backdated to March 1st and will be open initially for at least three months – and the UK government will extend the scheme for longer if necessary.
It will pay 80% of salary for staff who are kept on by their employer, covering wages of up to £2,500 a month.
The BBC says “unprecedented” measures will stop workers being laid off due to the crisis, chancellor Rishi Sunak said.
Firms have warned the virus could see them collapse, wiping out thousands of jobs, as life in the UK is put on hold.
The chancellor said closing pubs and restaurants would have a “significant impact” on businesses. According to the BBC it is understood that the wage subsidy will apply to firms where bosses have already had to lay off workers due to the coronavirus, as long as they are brought back into the workforce and instead granted a leave of absence.
Measures announced earlier this week include:
- 12 months 100% business rates holiday for businesses in hospitality, leisure and retail. Grants will also available for Scottish companies in this sector.
- A £25,000 grant for businesses in hospitality, leisure and retail with a rateable value between £18,000 and £51,000. Please note this is likely to be an upfront, one-off payment and not a loan and is likely to be processed by local authorities on behalf of government. More details on this should be available soon and will be posted online. Payment is expected in early April.
- Small firms receiving the small business bonus or rural relief will be eligible for a £10,000 grant. Please note this is likely to be an upfront, one-off payment and not a loan and is likely to be processed by local authorities on behalf of government. More details on this should be available soon and will be posted online. Payment is expected in early April.
- All non-domestic properties will get 1.6% relief, reversing the poundage change.
- Statutory sick pay relief package for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
- The HMRC Time To Pay Scheme to help with tax
- Under new guidance, pubs and restaurants should be given urgent flexibility to offer takeaway services. The Scottish Government has asked that planning authorities should not seek to undertake planning enforcement action which would result in unnecessarily restricting public houses and restaurants providing takeaway services on a temporary basis during the current exceptional circumstances.
Additional detail on the Scottish Government’s package of reliefs and grants, which broadly replicates that of the UK Government, can be found here.
East Lothian Interest Free Loans
East Lothian Council has also announced that Interest-free business interruption loans are being offered by East Lothian Investments Ltd in a bid to help keep East Lothian employers afloat during the current Coronavirus crisis.
Loans are available up to £5,000, interest free with a holiday repayment period of four months.
There is a 5% arrangement fee to be paid up front and the loan will have a term of 24 months after the holiday period has ended. It is open to existing businesses only that have been trading for more than two years and have employees.
Decisions on loans will be made within seven days and funds can be paid within 24 hours.
All applications and paperwork will be done via e-mail and arrangement fee and loan award will be paid by bank transfer.
More details can be found here.
UK Government Loans
In addition to the above support the UK government has announced a new temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, will launch early next week to support primarily small and medium-sized businesses to access bank lending and overdrafts.
The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan (subject to a per-lender cap on claims) to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to SMEs. The government will not charge businesses or banks for this guarantee, and the Scheme will support loans of up to £5 million in value.