Covid-19: Support for Business

For the first time in history, the UK government is stepping in to help pay people’s wages – paying grants to support as many jobs as necessary.

· Grants will be paid to any employers who retain their staff. Any employer in the country – large, small, charitable or for profit – who promises to retain their staff, will be able to apply for a grant from HMRC to cover most of the wages of people who are not working but are kept on payroll.

· Employees who were on the payroll on 19 March or earlier are eligible. The cost of wages will be backdated to 1 March.

· Grants will cover 80 per cent of the salary of retained workers up to a total of £2,500 a month – which is above the average income. Employers will be free to top up the remaining 20 per cent, but this is not mandatory. There will be no limit on the number or total value of grants paid out.

· The UK Government will also cover the cost of National Insurance and pension contributions. Employer contributions for furloughed staff will be paid by the UK Government on top of 80 per cent of salary costs. This could save businesses an extra £300 a month for each employee under the scheme.

· Workers on the Job Retention Scheme who are planning to take paid parental or adoption leave will be entitled to pay based on their usual earnings rather than a furloughed pay rate.

· The scheme has been extended by the UK Government until the end of October. There will be no changes to the scheme until the end of July. But from the start of August there will be flexibility for employers to return people to work part time.

· The scheme is now closed to new applications – unless you are returning to work from any kind of parental leave. If you are returning for parental leave, your employer will still be able to furlough you even after the June 10 cut-off date. But in order to be eligible, your employer must have previously furloughed other staff in the past.

· Further information on the scheme can be found at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

Your business will not pay VAT until the end of June:

· The UK Government have announced that VAT for April, May and June will be deferred, and businesses will have until the end of the financial year to repay those bills.

Your business may be entitled to reclaim the costs of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for sickness absence:

· This refund will cover up to two weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who are either ill or been told to self-isolate because of COVID-19. This is in line with the recommended isolation period.

· Employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible. The size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020.

· Employers should maintain records of staff absences, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note. The eligible period for the scheme began on 13 March.

· The UK Government will work with employers over the coming months to set up the repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible. Existing systems are not designed to facilitate employer refunds for SSP.

· You can now apply online to reclaim the costs of SSP for eligible employees at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-back-statutory-sick-pay-paid-to-employees-due-to-coronavirus-covid-19

Your business may be eligible for rates relief and grants:

· If your business occupies a property in the retail, hospitality, tourism or aviation sectors you will be eligible for a 100 per cent discount on your rates bill for 1 year from 1 April 2020. This will cover a range of businesses, including restaurants, bars, pubs, cafes, shops, cinemas, bingo halls and letting agents. This discount will also cover airports and aviation businesses that are based as airports. Relief will be granted regardless of the rateable value of the property. The property must be occupied in order to be eligible.

· Your business will be eligible for a 1.6 per cent relief regardless of rateable value. This measure effectively freezes the poundage rate for the coming year. This will not need to be applied for – it will automatically be applied to your bill.

· You will be eligible for these reliefs even if you are already in receipt of another form of relief.

· You may be eligible for a grant of up to £25,000 if your business is in the hospitality, leisure and retail sector and occupies a property with a rateable value of between £18,001 and £51,000. If your business occupies more than one property, you may be eligible for a further grant of up to £18,750 for each additional property.

· You may be eligible for a grant of up to £10,000 if your business is eligible for the Small Business Bonus Scheme or Rural Rate Relief. If your business occupies more than one property, you may be eligible for a further grant of up to £7,500 for each additional property.

· You should now be able to apply for reliefs and grants via your East Lothian Council. Information on how to apply is available at: https://www.eastlothian.gov.uk/news/article/13214/support_grants_for_businesses_to_be_extended

· The deadline for applications for grants is July 10.

If your business is not eligible for the grants above, please read the following information:

· If you pay your business rates through a landlord or are not in the rates system at all then you may now be eligible for a business support grant. You should now be able to apply for a £10,000

business support grant from your local authority if your business occupies a shared office space, business incubator or a shared industrial unit that is leased from a registered, rate-paying landlord.

· If you own a small bed and breakfast businesses with no business bank account you could be eligible for support. From 15 June, you should be able to apply for a share of a £3 million fund designed to support small B&Bs. Eligibility criteria and details on how the application process will work are yet to be announced but further details of the commitment can be found at https://www.gov.scot/news/more-than-gbp-100-million-awarded-to-scottish-businesses/

· Further information for businesses in Scotland is available at https://findbusinesssupport.gov.scot/coronavirus-advice. Any unanswered questions can be raised with the Scottish Government via email on BESTCovidHub@gov.scot or by calling 0300 303 0660.

If you own a small or medium-sized business that is facing cash flow issues, please read the following information:

· You can now apply for a UK Government Bounce Back loan of between £2,000 and £50,000. Small businesses can now apply online through a simple form at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-a-coronavirus-bounce-back-loan

· These new loans will be interest free for the first 12 months and backed 100 per cent by the UK Government. No repayments will be due in the first 12 months and the UK Government will pay any fees incurred. The loan term will be up to 6 years.

· The UK Government is working with lenders to ensure that approved loans are paid out within days so that immediate support is available for those that need it the most.

· You will be eligible to apply if your business is UK based, has been negatively affected by the virus and was not an ‘undertaking in difficulty’ on 31 December 2019.

· You will be ineligible for these loans if your business operates as a bank, insurer or reinsurer (but not insurance brokers), a public body or a state-funded school.

· You will not be able to apply if you are already claiming funding through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS). However if you already have a loan with a lender under CBILS terms, you will be able to transfer it to the Bounce Back Loan Scheme.

· The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), delivered by the British Business Bank, is operational and is ready to support businesses.

· The scheme is working to provide funding for business through term loans, overdrafts, asset finance and invoice finance.

· The UK Government is providing lenders with a guarantee of 80 per cent on each loan to give them greater confidence in providing loans to small and medium sized businesses.

· If you obtain a loan as part of this scheme, you will not be charged for this guarantee and nor will your lender.

· You will be able to apply for loans worth up to £5 million, from over 40 lenders, interest free for the first twelve months as the UK Government will be covering the cost of the repayments.

· All viable small businesses will now be able to access the scheme, not just those unable to secure regular commercial financing.

· The UK Government is stopping lenders from requesting personal guarantees for loans under £250,000 and is working urgently to speed up the application and approval process.

· You should approach your own lender via their website in the first instance to see if you are eligible for funding, before approaching other lenders.

· The latest information is available at https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/ourpartners/coronavirus-business-interruption-loan-scheme-cbils/for-businesses-and-advisors/

· You can confirm whether or not you are eligible by reading this check list: https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/CBILS-SME-Eligibility-Check-FINAL.pdf

If you own a large business that is facing cash flow issues, please read the following information:

· The UK Government has set up the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) to provide loans of up to £200 million, largely guaranteed by the state.

· At present, CLBILS loans will provide a government guarantee of 80 per cent on loans of up to £25 million for firms with an annual turnover of between £45 million and £250 million.

· At present, CLBILS loans will provide a government guarantee of 80 per cent on loans of up to £50 million for firms with an annual turnover that’s greater than £250 million.

· Loans backed by a guarantee under CLBILS will be offered at commercial rates of interest.

· Further details of the scheme are available at https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/ourpartners/coronavirus-business-interruption-loan-schemes/clbils/ and https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-the-coronavirus-large-business-interruption-loan-scheme

· Companies commonly sell short term debt, known as ‘commercial paper’, to the market. This is a quick and cost-effective way to raise working capital. The UK Government has worked with the Bank of England to set up a new Corporate Financing Facility, that will allow the Bank to buy short term debt from companies.

· This will support companies which are fundamentally strong, but have been affected by a short-term funding squeeze, enabling them to continue financing their short-term liabilities. It will also support corporate finance markets overall and ease the supply of credit to all firms.

· Further information is available from the Bank of England here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/launch-of-covid-19-corporate-financing-facility-ccff

If you are concerned about facing insolvency, please read the following information:

· The UK Government is changing insolvency laws to prevent businesses being forced to file for bankruptcy. Wrongful trading regulations will be suspended retrospectively to 1 March to ensure that company directors are not held personally liable for continuing to pay staff and suppliers even if there are fears the company could become insolvent.

· Additionally, businesses going through restructuring will not be able to be put into administration by creditors and will continue to be able to access energy, broadband or raw materials.

· Further information is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/regulations-temporarily-suspended-to-fast-track-supplies-of-ppe-to-nhs-staff-and-protect-companies-hit-by-covid-19

· Scotland’s insolvency service, Accountant in Bankruptcy (AiB), has suspended sale and eviction from property in ongoing bankruptcy administrations until further notice.

· The evidential requirements for individuals seeking debt relief through bankruptcy have been amended to allow faster access, providing protection from debt enforcement.

· AiB is also reducing the need for face to face contact, allowing access to debt relief to be maintained by accepting electronic signatures on protected trust deeds and other documentation.

· If you have an ongoing debt payment plan but are worried about how you will be able to pay, AiB will not be revoking these programmes.

· The latest information is available from Accountant in Bankruptcy here: https://www.aib.gov.uk/aib-covid-19-business-continuity.

If you are concerned about water fees, please read the following information:

· A package worth £60 million has been agreed with water companies to help businesses that are facing difficulties with their water charges.

· Scottish Water has agreed to suspend pre-payment charges for licensed providers for two months, beginning with the April payment. This means water suppliers can now be flexible with their customers.

· The Central Market Agency (CMA) has also agreed to suspend all ‘performance standard charges’ to allow licensed providers to focus on supporting customers.

If you are a business owner, or are self-employed and you are concerned about your tax bill, you may be eligible for support through HMRC’s Time to Pay service:

· HMRC may agree, on a case by case basis, to assist with your business’ tax bill through the Time to Pay Service.

· These arrangements are tailor made and based on individual circumstances and liabilities.

· More information can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/tax-helpline-to-support-businesses-affected-by-coronavirus-covid-19

If you operate a research-focussed SME or a high-growth company, please read the following information:

· The UK Government has launched a £500 million Future Fund to support the most innovative businesses in the country. You may be able to access grants or loans to ensure your company can continue during the crisis.

· This fund is being delivered alongside the British Business Bank and will be open until September. The fund will provide UK-based companies with between £125,000 and £5 million from the UK Government, with private sector investors at least matching that investment.

· To be eligible, a business must be an unlisted UK registered company that has previously raised at least £250,000 in equity investment from third party investors in the last five years.

· Further information is available at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/future-fund

· The UK Government is working with Innovate UK to provide £750 million of targeted support for the most R&D intensive small and medium size firms.

· Innovate UK will accelerate up to £200 million of grant and loan payments for its 2,500 existing customers. An extra £550 million will also be made available to increase support for existing customers and £175,000 of support will be offered to around 1,200 firms not currently in receipt of Innovate UK funding.

· Further information is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/billion-pound-support-package-for-innovative-firms-hit-by-coronavirus

If your business is in the fishing industry, please read the following information:

· The ‘seafood resilience fund’ has now closed. Although this fund has now closed, you may still be eligible for support if you have not yet claimed. Please see below for further information.

· If your vessel is under 12 metres in length, you can check if you are eligible for support at https://www.gov.scot/publications/covid-19—emergency-hardship-support-for-scottish-fishing-industry/

· If your vessel is over 12 metres in length, you can check if you are eligible for support at https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-fishing-industry-support-tranche-2/.

· Marine Scotland will be writing to all vessels and relevant representative Associations with more details. Queries can be emailed to seafisheriesintervention@gov.scot.

· If your business operates in shellfish growing or trout farming, you can check if you are eligible for support at https://www.gov.scot/publications/aquaculture-covid-19-hardship-fund-application-form/

· If you fish inshore, you may be able to access additional fish quotas around the North Sea and West Coast. Further information is available at https://www.gov.scot/news/additional-quota-for-inshore-fishing/

If you are a small or medium sized business in the housebuilding sector, please read the following information:

· You may be eligible for a short-term loan of up to £1 million. You will be eligible if your business is based in Scotland, builds 5 or more homes each year, has a turnover of less than £45 million, was financially viable before the crisis, has liquidity issues and cannot secure funding from other sources.

· You will be able to apply for a loan of between £50,000 and £1 million at a fixed interest rate of 2 per cent per annum. Loans will be offered on flexible repayment terms, with the option for capital and interest payments to be offset for 12 months. The majority of loans are expected to be repaid within 24 months. You will be asked to confirm why existing support routes have not been successful.

· Applications are now open. Further information is available at https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-liquidity-support-sme-housebuilders/

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Published by Sarah Russell on behalf East Lothian Conservative and Unionist Association, 4 Church Street, Haddington EH41 3EX