Covid-19 – What Help is Available for your Business? – Updated

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Government support

On the evening of Friday 20th March, the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced additional measures to help smaller businesses and the self-employed affected by COVID-19. The Government also has said it will announce further measures to support self-employed people over the coming days.

Head to the support for business page of the Government website for details of the initiatives which the Government introduced in the recent budget

  • Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will cover up to 80 per cent of wage costs (details to be confirmed) backdated to 1 March for a period of three months or longer, if needed, for small businesses, charities and not for profit organisations. Grants due to be available to business within weeks.
  • A 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality, leisure and nursery businesses in England.
  • Grants – up to £25,000 to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from smaller premises and £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief. Available from your local authority.
  • Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme helps SMEs get better access to bank lending and overdrafts. The business loans of up to £5m will be available from Monday 23 March and will be interest free for 12 months (Here’s a list of lenders).
  • Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility, the Bank of England will buy short term debt from larger companies. Available w/c 23 March. More info on BoE Website.
  • Reclaim SSP. Legislation is being brought forward to allow small-and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19. No date yet, but the Government has said “as soon as possible.”

All businesses and self-employed people in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time To Pay service. You can call a dedicated hotline to negotiate an agreement based on your individual circumstances.

Dedicated hotline: 0800 015 9559


Support for self-employed

The minimum income floor for the self-employed: self-employed people can now access, in full, Universal Credit at a rate equivalent to Statutory Sick Pay for employees.

Statutory sick pay – If you have COVID-19 or are advised to stay at home, you can now more easily make a claim for Universal Credit or new style Employment and Support Allowance. SSP rate for employees is £94.25 per week of statutory sick pay for up to 28 weeks. The government announced last week that the money will be payable from day one instead of day four for affected individuals. The government has a website offering more guidance .

In general, when it comes to working out which benefits you are eligible for and how much you might get, the same rules usually apply whether you work for an employer or are self-employed, according to the benefits advisory group Turn2Us. Your earnings from self-employment will count as income when working out what benefits might be available to you. Turn2Us also offer a useful benefits calculator.

Taxes – next self-assessment payments deferred to Jan 2021.

The chancellor said he will be deferring VAT for the next quarter, saving businesses £30bn. This may not apply – the threshold for registering for VAT stands at £85,000.

Who can I talk to?

The Federation of Small Businesses offers the following advice on people you should talk to if you’re having difficulty.  This page has plenty of detail including contact information – worth a visit.

  • Talk to your bank about finance options. In addition to considering new overdraft facilities, banks and finance providers should also be lenient on things like loan repayment.
  • Talk to your customers about payment and chase large businesses for immediate payment.
  • Talk to your Government about business support.
  • Talk to HMRC about time to pay your tax, sick pay costs and employment allowance help.
  • Talk to your local authority about your business rates, grants and hardship funds.
  • Talk to your landlord about a rent holiday.
  • Talk to Jobcentre Plus about benefits for the self-employed.

Banks and Finance

Barclays, Santander, Virgin Money, and TSB have announced they will be offering payment holidays for loans and mortgages to help businesses and individuals affected by Coronavirus.

Barclays has launched a free telephone helpline offering support and information to its business banking customers. It is also providing repayment holidays. Coronavirus: frequently asked questions

Lloyds has launched a £2 billion package to help minimise disruption to business operations. Support includes repayment holidays, and no arrangement fees for new or increased overdrafts, invoice discounting and finance facilities. Lloyds Banking Group Covid-19

NatWest has announced a £5 billion fund to support small and medium-sized firms to deal with the impact of Coronavirus. Support includes the provision of working capital, loan repayment holidays and temporary emergency loans with no fees. Read: NatWest pledges £5bn

Santander has outlined the support it is offering to customers impacted by Coronavirus. Support includes a helpline and advice on managing finances. Read: Santander business

Looking after your mental health

COVID-19 will be causing stress and worry for small businesses and the self-employed, and it is more important than ever to make sure you are taking steps to support your own mental health as well as that of any employees you may have.

  • Mind has issued tailored support for mental health in the wake of COVID-19, which includes tips for taking care of your mental health if you have been asked to stay and work at home.
  • Heads Together Workplace Wellbeing hub.
  • NHS has a good page on Mental health and wellbeing with lots of options.

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