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Covid-19 business support - regular updates (updated 9 April)


We fully appreciate the concerns of businesses across the county at this very difficult time. We are here to give advice and support to all County Durham businesses, large and small.

Cllr Carl Marshall has written to all businesses to assure them of our commitment to do everything possible, as quickly as possible, to support businesses and workers who are impacted.

We have recently completed processing all the business rate reliefs and revised bills have been issued to help provide support to our local businesses. We have also agreed to postpone debt recovery action for anyone in council tax or business rates arrears, pay suppliers immediately and, through Digital Drive County Durham, fast track 40% funding for businesses to purchase technology supporting home working.

We are now processing and making payments under the Small Business Grant Fund and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund. Qualifying businesses will receive grants of £10,000 or £25,000 from us, depending on their circumstances. Go to our Covid 19 - apply for a Small Business Grant Fund and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund page to check your eligibility and complete the online form so that payment can be made into your account as quickly as possible. Our staff are processing applications to ensure payments are checked, processed and paid quickly. You will receive a confirmation once payment has been processed and made direct to your bank account.

Information on Supplier Relief Assistance for our contracted suppliers and supplier invoicing arrangements.

We will continue to act on guidance and disseminate information as soon as we receive it through all our communications channels including social media and the daily email newsletter from Business Durham.

Business Durham, our economic development arm, is also providing businesses with the most up to date information as it becomes available.

Update (9 April)

Job Retention Scheme (furlough)

An online portal will be open to receive applications from 20 April 2020.  First payments are expected to be made by the end of this month. Reports suggest that the demand for the scheme from the private sector was likely to be three times that expected when the scheme was originally announced.

There is a government webinar on this scheme:

Social distancing in the workplace

The government published a set of sector specific guidance notes for social distancing in the workplace. This includes general social distancing guidance at Gov.uk: Social distancing in the workplace - principles, as well as specific pages on construction, international freight and transport sectors.  This also includes guidance for the waste sector where it is not possible to practice social distancing in the workplace, including in vehicle cabs and includes a direct link to the recently published Waste Industry Safety and Health (WISH) Guidance.

Charities

The government  has announced £750 million in new funding for the charity sector. This will comprise of £370 million for small, local charities supporting vulnerable people. In England this will be provided by organisations like the National Lotteries Communities Fund. £360 million will also be provided directly to specific charities providing essential services and supporting vulnerable people.

Update (7 April)

  • HMRC Job Retention scheme: Furloughed workers can check if their employer can use the scheme, if they're eligible and how much their employer can claim.
  • Gov.uk: apprenticeship programme response: The government has published a document with guidance for apprentices, employers, training providers and assessment organisations in response to the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Update (6 April)

  • relaxed rules and regulations to help businesses handle any disruption: The Government has relaxed rules and regulations to help businesses handle any disruption they are experiencing due to coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • Pay it Forward: The Business Support campaign is working with Crowdfunder to build awareness about the support provided to small businesses through the Pay it Forward campaign. Small businesses can set-up a Pay it Forward campaign to pre-sell their services and diversify trading.
  • £20 million funding for ambitious technologies: Businesses that can help boost the UK's resilience to the long-term impact of coronavirus and similar future situations, can access grants of up to £50,000 from  £20 million government funding.  
  • UK Research and Innovation: Keep up to date with the work of UKRI in response to the crisis, including grants, awards and call to fund ideas.

Update (3 April)

Info for estate agents and lettings agencies

Updated government loan schemes

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)

The government has extended the CBILS so that all viable small businesses affected by Covid19, and not just those unable to secure regular commercial financing, are eligible if they need finance to keep operating. The Scheme supports small and medium-sized businesses, with an annual turnover of up to £45m, to access loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance of up to £5 million for up to six years.

The government is also stopping lenders from requesting personal guarantees for loans under £250,000 and making operational changes to speed up lending approvals. The government will continue to cover the first twelve months of interest and fees.

Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS)

The new CLBILS will ensure that more firms can benefit from government-backed support. It will provide a government guarantee of 80% to enable banks to make loans of up to £25 million to firms with an annual turnover of between £45 million and £500 million. Loans backed by a guarantee under CLBILS will be offered at commercial rates of interest and further details of the scheme will be announced later this month.

Update (2 April)

Update (1 April)

Update (30 March)

Update (29 March)

A service has been launched to Gov.uk: help businesses support the response to coronavirus - if your business can help complete the Gov.uk form. Support needed includes:

  • medical testing equipment
  • medical equipment design
  • protective equipment for healthcare workers, such as masks, gowns and sanitiser
  • hotel rooms
  • transport and logistics, for moving goods or people
  • manufacturing equipment
  • warehouse or office space, for medical use or storage
  • expertise or support on IT, manufacturing, construction, project management, procurement, engineering or communications
  • social care or childcare

Update (27 March)

Self-Employed Income Support Scheme

Self-employment Income Support Scheme

  • The self-employed income support scheme will pay self-employed people 80% of their average profits over the last three years.
  • Up to a total of £2,500 per month for an initial 3 months.
  • HMRC will contact those eligible requesting completion of an online form - the grant will be paid into your account.
  • Use this scheme if you're self-employed or a member of a partnership and have lost income due to coronavirus.

The scheme is open to those with average profits of £50,000 or less.  The self-employed can claim grants and continue to work.

HMRC are working on the scheme and expect it to be operating from June 2020.

Other help available for the self-employed includes:

  • deferral of self assessment income tax payments due in July 2020 and VAT payments due from 20 March 2020 until 30 June 2020
  • grants for businesses that pay little or no business rates - the Small Business Grant Scheme, we have written to you if you are eligible
  • increased amounts of Universal Credit
  • Business Interruption Loan Scheme

Update (26 March)

Update (25 March)

Grant fund payments

We received government guidance on these schemes late on 23 March and are now processing payments under the Small Business Grant Fund and the Retail, Hospitality & Leisure Grant Fund. Qualifying businesses will receive grants of £10,000 or £25,000 from the council depending on their circumstances. Businesses that do not have a business premises or do not meet the criteria laid down are not eligible to receive a grant under these schemes.

If you/your business has received a letter or email from us to confirm that you are eligible, we now need to collect information to process the payments in line with government guidelines - including your bank details in order to make the payment by bank transfer. Please complete the online form below as soon as possible. Once your eligibility is confirmed, we will process your payments as soon as we receive these details and you will receive payment in a matter of days.

To check your eligibility for these grants, please go to:

If you require assistance in completing the form please contact Revenues and Benefits on 03000 268 997 or email businessrates@durham.gov.uk.

Under these schemes, the council expects to pay grants totalling around £77 million under the Small Business Grant Fund, where qualifying businesses will receive a grant of £10,000, and around £12 million under the Retail, Hospitality & Leisure Grant Fund, where qualifying businesses will receive a grant of £25,000.  

We are working hard to make these payments to businesses as quickly as possible. To do this, we need the information we have been asked to collect as part of this process and guidelines - please help us to help you, by looking out for your letter or email confirming that you qualify and completing the form above.

Update (24 March)

Business Support website

A new Coronavirus website has been launched offering detailed guidance to businesses and the self-employed.

Key measures include:

  • Deferring Valued Added Tax (VAT) payments for 3 months
  • HMRC Time to Pay: HMRC have also scaled up their Time to Pay offer to all firms and individuals who are in temporary financial distress as a result of Covid-19 and have outstanding tax liabilities.
  • Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme: A new temporary scheme, with details of accredited banks on the British Business Bank website, has been launched to support primarily small and medium-sized businesses to access bank lending and overdrafts.
  • Business Rates Holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure sectors: Businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors in England will not pay business rates for the 2020-21 tax year. Revised bills are being produced this week.
  • Small Business Grant Funding: This will provide a one-off grant of £10,000 to eligible businesses to help meet their ongoing business costs. The Government published the guidance on how these schemes will work on 23 March and expects us to make payments at or around 1 April. We are working hard to adopt this guidance and start to process payments as soon as we can and in advance of 1 April if possible.
  • Cash grant for retail, hospitality and leisure: If your business is in the retail, hospitality or leisure sector, you will receive a cash grant of up to £25,000 per property. Businesses in these sectors with a rateable value of under £15,000 will receive a grant of £10,000. Businesses with a rateable value of between £15,001 and £51,000 will receive a grant of £25,000. The Government published the guidance on how these schemes will work on 23 March and expects councils to make payments at or around 1 April. We are working hard to adopt this guidance and start to process payments as soon as we can and in advance of 1 April if possible.
  • COVID 19 Corporate Financing Facility: The new Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) means that the Bank of England will buy short-term debt from larger companies. 
  • Income Tax Deferral for the Self-Employed: If you are self-employed, Income Tax payments due in July 2020 under the Self-Assessment system will be deferred to January 2021. 
  • Statutory Sick Pay Rebate: The Government will bring forward legislation to allow small and medium-sized businesses to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for staff sickness absence due to coronavirus. This refund will cover up to two weeks SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of coronavirus.
  • Business Rates Holiday for Nurseries: Nurseries in England do not pay business rates for the 2020-21 tax year. 
  • Business support FAQs

Notices to exporters

The Department for International Trade's Export Control Joint Unit (ECJU) has issued two Notices to Exporters concerning the impact on training and licensing activities. For general export control queries please contact ECJU's Helpline on 020 7215 4594 or exportcontrol.help@trade.gov.uk.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance for the charity sector

The Charity Commission have produced Guidance to help running your charity during the outbreak.

National Business Support Helpline

FSB Advice

North East Growth Hub Covid19 Toolkit

Update (23 March)

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, all UK employers will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees' salary for those employees that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis. Employers need to:

  • Designate affected employees as 'furloughed workers,' and notify employees of this change. Changing the status of employees remains subject to existing employment law and, depending on the employment contract, may be subject to negotiation; and
  • Submit information to HMRC about the employees that have been furloughed and their earnings through a new online portal. HMRC will set out further details on the information required.
  • HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month.
  • HMRC are working urgently to set up a system for reimbursement. Existing systems are not set up to facilitate payments to employers. If your business needs short term cash flow support, you may be eligible for a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan.

Income Tax payments

Payments due in July 2020 under the Self Assessment system will be deferred to January 2021. Income Tax Self-Assessment payments due on the 31 July 2020 will be deferred until 31 January 2021. This is an automatic offer with no applications required. No penalties or interest for late payment will be charged in the deferral period.

HMRC Time to Pay

HMRC has also scaled up their Time to Pay offer to all firms and individuals who are in temporary financial distress as a result of Covid-19 and have outstanding tax liabilities. You can contact HMRC's dedicated Covid-19 helpline to get practical help and advice. This can be reached by calling 0800 0159 559.

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme  

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. Businesses can access the first 12 months of that finance interest free.

Business closures to reduce social gathering

Government asked that all cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants to close on Friday 20 March. They can continue to provide take-out services. Nightclubs, theatres, cinemas, gyms and leisure centres were also asked to close on Friday 20 March. This situation will be reviewed each month.

Proof of coronavirus absence from work

People unable to work for more than seven days because of coronavirus (COVID-19) can obtain an NHS: isolation note through a new online service.

Guidance posters for staff, employers and businesses

Public Health England have produced Guidance posters that should be downloaded, printed and displayed in the workplace.

Further information

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