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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Business briefing – 1 April 2020

Banks were put under pressure by Business Secretary Asok Sharma at today’s Downing Street press conference to play their part in supporting businesses during the COVID-19 shutdown.

On a day when research showed up to one fifth of small and medium sized businesses – nearly a million – were likely to run out of cash in the next four weeks, Mr Sharma said the government will do everything it can to support business and the Chancellor will say more in the coming days.

He offered his “heartfelt thanks” to businesses up and down the country helping to keep the economy going.

“Our businesses are doing everything they can to support people and the government in turn will do all it can to support businesses, so when this crisis passes, and it will, we are ready to bounce back,” he said.

He added he had been working with local authorities and High Street banks to ensure the monies needed by businesses would reach them as quickly as possible. He told the conference that today, 1 April, high streets would begin to receive a £22 billion coronavirus boost, with grants of up to £25,000 already being paid into bank accounts of high street businesses, many of whom will also be exempt from business rates.

But he had a warning for banks that it would be “completely unacceptable” for them to refuse financial support to firms which need it, referencing the support they got from the taxpayer following the 2008 financial crisis.

He said: “Just as the taxpayer stepped into help banks in 2008, we will do everything we can to ensure banks repay that favour and support the people of the UK in their time of need.”

Additional new guidance

COVID-19: guidance for the public on mental health and wellbeing
Click here for advice and information on how employees can look after their mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): temporary changes to driver certificate of professional competence (CPC) requirements
The Department for Transport have set out temporary changes to allow bus and lorry drivers who cannot complete compulsory CPC training to continue to drive. Click here for more information.

Chancellor waives duties and VAT on vital medical imports
Chancellor waives import taxes on vital medical equipment including ventilators, coronavirus testing kits and protective clothing. Find out more here.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on business support grant funding
Click here for guidance for local authorities setting out details of the Small Business Grants Fund (SBGF) and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund (RHLGF). Updated information on state aid, monitoring and reporting requirements, post payment checks, eligibility of charities.

Business support packages: latest updates

  • Extra protection for businesses with ban on evictions for commercial tenants who miss rent payments – click here
  • Financial assistance for employers unable to pay statutory redundancy payments – click here
  • The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – click here.
  • Deferring VAT and Income Tax payments – click here.
  • Statutory Sick Pay relief package for SMEs – click here
  • 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality, leisure and nursery businesses in England – click here
  • Small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief – click here
  • Grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000 – click here
  • The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme offering loans of up to £5million for SMEs through the British Business Bank – click hereOPEN
  • A new lending facility from the Bank of England to help support liquidity among larger firms, helping them bridge coronavirus disruption to their cash flows through loans – click hereOPEN
  • The HMRC Time To Pay Scheme – click here

The government has set up a business support helpline, which is open Monday-Friday, 9am-6pm. More information can be found here. The latest UK Government advice can be found here.

There is a dedicated Government Business Support site here.

Government COVID-19 FAQs

Frequently asked questions for businesses and employers, on business closures and stay at home, and on the self-employment income support scheme, are available on the business support website. Click here.

Can your business offer Coronavirus support?

The UK Government is looking for businesses who can offer support in the multiple areas and has set up an online tool where businesses can register. To offer support click here. The support needed includes things like:

  • 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