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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Business briefing – 27 April 2020

Micro ‘bounce back’ loans for Coronavirus-hit SMEs with 100% government guarantee
UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced today that small businesses will be eligible for new loans worth between £2,000 and £50,000, which are backed by a 100% government guarantee.

He says the government will pay the interest on these “bounce-back loans” for the first 12 months. The scheme will open from 9:00 BST on Monday next week and loans should arrive within 24 hours of approval.

Businesses will be able to apply for these new Bounce Back Loans for 25% of their turnover, up to a maximum of £50,000, with the government paying the interest for the first twelve months.

However, the Chancellor added that he would not be yielding to pressure to underwrite with 100% guarantees all the government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans.

“We should not ask the ordinary taxpayers of today and tomorrow to bear the entire risk of lending almost unlimited sums…to businesses who may, in some cases, have very little prospect of paying those loans back – and not necessarily because of the impact of Coronavirus,” he told Parliament.

“So I do not think it is appropriate to provide 100% guarantees on all of our schemes. Instead, these new Bounce Back Loans carefully target that extraordinary level of state support at those who need it most. And the £50,000 cap balances the risk to the taxpayer with the need to support our smallest businesses.”

Read the Chancellor’s statement in full here.

Boris is back, but lockdown continues
Prime Minister Boris Johnson returned to Downing Street this week but warned British businesses that social distancing was likely to continue for some time.

“I know how hard and how stressful it has been… so let me say directly to British business – to the shopkeepers, to the entrepreneurs, to the hospitality sector, to everyone on whom our economy depends: I understand your impatience, I share your anxiety,” said the Prime Minister.

“And I know that without our private sector, without the drive and commitment of the wealth creators of this country, there will be no economy to speak of; there will be no cash to pay for our public services; no way of funding our NHS.

“And yes, I can see the long term consequences of lock down as clearly as anyone, so I entirely share your urgency… and yet we must also recognise the risk of a second spike… because that would mean not only a new wave of death and disease but also an economic disaster.

“We would be forced once again to slam on the brakes across the whole country and reimpose restrictions in such a way as to do more and lasting damage.

“So I know it is tough, but I have absolutely no doubt that we will beat it together, we will come through this all the faster and the United Kingdom will emerge stronger than ever before.”

Read the Prime Minister’s statement in full here.

Govt ‘tempted’ to #RaiseTheBar to support retail, leisure and hospitality businesses
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said it is ‘very tempting’ to answer the call to #RaiseTheBar and increase the rateable value threshold for its business support grants from £51,000 to any business with a rateable value of up to and including £150,000.

Mr Hancock, who was leading today’s Downing Street press conference, was asked about the campaign, which has been taken up by Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) across the UK.

Answering, he said businesses in the food and drink industry had been hit very hard by the nature of social distancing, adding it “takes away the ability to go for a pint with your friends”.

He added: “I will take these away and talk to the Chancellor (Rishi Sunak) about them. We recognise the importance of supporting businesses right across the board who are badly hit by this.

“We want to get through this (lockdown) as soon as possible and we want to support businesses on the way through – it’s tempting to say yes to as health secretary, but I think I need to talk to the Chancellor.”

Payments start tomorrow for Furlough wage claims
Wages for furloughed employees are now being paid through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, six working days after claims opened.

HMRC has confirmed that payments for claims made on Monday 20 April will be in employers’ bank accounts by tomorrow (28 April).

Businesses which have not yet made a claim, can still claim online for a grant for 80% of their furloughed employees’ salaries, up to a maximum of £2,500 per employee, per month. Click here for more information.

Latest information and updates

Forestry Commission eAlert
How the Forestry Commission is supporting the forestry sector during the coronavirus outbreak: click here.

Extra month to claim for farm payments
The Government has confirmed the window to submit applications for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and make a claim for Countryside Stewardship (CS), Environmental Stewardship (ES) and woodland legacy revenue payments will be extended by one month. Click here for more information.

Councils given flexibility with free childcare funding
Councils can move free entitlements funding between settings in exceptional cases to meet demand during Coronavirus outbreak. Find out more here.

PPE export control: guidance for UK businesses
Guidance for UK businesses trading internationally includes a new section on the PPE export control process is available here.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): business support grant funding – guidance for local authorities
Guidance for local authorities setting out details of the Small Business Grants Fund (SBGF) and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund (RHLGF). Updated with clarification of whether grants are subject to tax. Click here for more information.

Providing apprenticeships during the coronavirus outbreak
Guidance for apprentices, employers, training providers and assessment organisations about changes to apprenticeships due to coronavirus (COVID-19). Updated information on furloughed apprentices, end-point assessment, functional skills apprentices and qualification certification. Click here for more information.

What parents and carers need to know about schools and education during the coronavirus outbreak
Guidance for critical workers has been updated – click here to view.

Letters and statements

Home Secretary Priti Patel provided an update on the government and law enforcement response to coronavirus (25 April 2020). Click here to read.

Click here to read Environment Secretary’ George Eustice’s statement on coronavirus (COVID-19) at the daily government press conference (26 April 2020).

Rt Hon George Eustice MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has written an open letter to vets to mark World Vet Day. Click here to read.

Resources to support your business

DASA (Defence And Security Accelerator)
The Defence and Security Accelerator is part of the Ministry of Defence. We provide funding to help innovators develop solutions to Defence and Security problems. At present, we have a £1m fund to support innovation related to COVID19 and have accelerated our review processes to turn proposals around rapidly. If you have a potential innovation, you can submit an outline and request a discussion with your regional Innovation Partner through our website – click here.

DASA has a wide rage of competitions and offers of funding open to businesses including COVID-19 – click here to find out more.

Government Coronavirus Business Support Hub
You can go here to find out all the latest information about what funding and support is available for your business, managing your business during coronavirus and business closures. There is also a new ‘support finder’ tool (available here) to help businesses easily determine what financial support is available to them during the coronavirus pandemic through a quick and simple online questionnaire. You can find out more about the tool here.

Government Coronavirus Business Support Whatsapp
The government has also launched a Coronavirus Information Service on WhatsApp which is now updated with business support advice. Text ‘hi’ to 07860064422 via Whatsapp and there are business support measures highlighted under option 5 with the relevant links to pages. Click here for more information.

Government Business support helpline
Contact the government’s business support helpline for free advice

Phone: 0300 456 3565
Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm

HMRC Helpline
HMRC have online help set up to help businesses and self-employed people concerned about not being able to pay their tax due to coronavirus.

The best way to get help from HMRC on any topic is to contact them online – click here. Alternatively, you can call them on 0800 0159 559

Government departments are hosting a series of webinars to help businesses understand the support available:

  • for topics that cover supporting and retaining staff and the self-employed, register to attend future webinars here or watch recorded sessions here
  • for international trade, register here

Coronavirus Business Support blog
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy have created the Coronavirus Business Support Blog to help business get the support they need to help with the impact of coronavirus. Click here to find out more.

Find a Job Service
If your business needs more workers as a result of COVID-19, such as those in food logistics, preparation and retail, post vacancies on Find a Job – click here.

Coronavirus support from Business Representative Organisations and Trade Associations
Business Representative Organisations and Trade Associations are providing coronavirus related  support for specific sectors. Click here to access the full list.

Can your business offer Coronavirus support?

Can your business offer further support?
The UK Government is looking for businesses who can offer support in multiple areas and has set up an online tool where businesses can register. To offer support click here.

Survey results

To understand more about how Coronavirus, and the government’s response to the crisis, has impacted businesses in our area, we invited businesses from across the South East area to complete a short survey.

The survey has now closed. Thank you for all of your contributions across the business landscape in the South East. The information we have compiled has been very helpful and has been shared with government. We will soon be creating a new survey focusing on the recovery stage for businesses. Click here to view the results.

Further support from our Growth Hub

Our Growth Hub offers a completely free and impartial service Our business navigators are available for free discussions via phone, webchat or email to answer your questions and concerns, as well as point you in the right direction for external or government advice.

If you would like to receive direct support from your local business navigators please complete our Business Support form and indicate what support you are interested in and how COVID-19 has affected you so far.