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2:58 AM 18th March 2020

Coronavirus Support For Small Business Owners

As the UK announced new measures to fight the coronavirus outbreak, many small and medium-sized businesses are already feeling its effects. ActionCOACH Wakefield has recently been contacted by some of its clients looking for guidance on this issue.

They encourage all business owners to read HMRC’s guidance for employers and business owners, which can found on https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19

This gives helpful advice on minimising the spread of infection and what to do if one of your employee’s presents symptoms.

As of the 17th March the government has now introduced a further package of financial measures to help the economy through the coronavirus impact.
It includes £330bn in loans, £20bn in other aid, a business rates holiday, and grants for retailers and pubs.

Please read the below information regarding support that has been made available to help businesses fight the financial impact of the coronavirus. We will be updating this as any new information is made available.
Financial Opportunities and Support Available

Tax (HMRC)

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. These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities.

If you are concerned about being able to pay your tax due to COVID-19, call HMRC’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559.

Some of our clients have already contacted HMRC, who have been very understanding and have offered to defer all tax payments (including VAT) for 2 months. In effect this is free credit to help with potential cash flow issues. All our clients are following suit and we’d encourage your clients to do the same.

Banks and Loans


Banks are also increasing credit lines and overdrafts and in some cases they may even offer repayment holidays. All our clients are contacting ALL of their credit suppliers to ask about relaxing payments.

Suppliers

We are also seeing some improved terms in cases of businesses renegotiating supplier payments and even improved pricing.

Government Support

In addition to this, to assist business owners the government has announced that it will provide support to ensure the impact of COVID-19 is minimised.

Business Interruption Loans

A Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme will launch next week to support 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 6 months of that finance interest free, as government will cover the first 6 months of interest .The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) temporarily replaces the Enterprise Finance Guarantee Scheme and will be provided by the British Business Bank through accredited lenders. To apply visit this website and follow the information provided.

Covering Sick Pay

For businesses with fewer than 250 employees, the cost of providing 14 days of statutory sick pay per employee will be refunded by the government in full. This will provide 2 million businesses with up to £2 billion to cover the costs of large-scale sick leave. Coronavirus statutory sick pay is expected to be in the form of a refund. The Treasury says that it is “working with employers over the coming months to set up a repayment mechanism as soon as possible for employers reclaiming statutory sick pay”.

As of the 17th March, the government has announced that they will bring forward legislation to allow small and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19. The eligibility criteria for the scheme will be:
this refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19
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 will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of COVID-19
employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note
eligible period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of Statutory Sick Pay to those staying at home comes into force
the government will work with employers over the coming months to set up the repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible

For more information about coronavirus government statutory sick pay, go to the Department for Work & Pensions website here.

For further advice regarding sick pay and how best to support your employee’s should they self-isolate, the ACAS website has issued the following information - https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus


Coronavirus help for self-employed

For the self-employed not eligible for SSP, contributory Employment and Support Allowance will be payable, at a rate of £73.10 a week if you are over 25, for eligible people affected by coronavirus or self-isolating in line with advice from day one of sickness, rather than day eight.

The rules regarding Universal Credit claims have also been relaxed for self-employed people. For the duration of the outbreak, the requirements of the Universal Credit minimum income floor will be temporarily relaxed for those who have COVID-19 or are self-isolating according to government advice, ensuring self-employed claimants will receive support. People will be able to claim Universal Credit and access advance payments upfront without the current requirement to attend a Job Centre if they are advised to self-isolate.

Do you get Small Business Rates Relief?

There is also a £3,000 cash grant being made available to 700,000 of our smallest businesses, which will be delivered by Local Authorities, and worth a total of £2 billion. Your local council will have further information on this as the scheme is rolled out.

A business rates holiday has been introduced for 2020-21 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with a rateable value of over £51,000.

A £25,000 grant will be provided to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from smaller premises, with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000.
The planned rates discount for pubs will rise from £1,000 to £5,000. Nearly half of all business properties will not pay a penny of business rates. This will also be implemented through your local council. If you already receive the current business rates retail discount, you will receive notification of the changes in due course.

For those looking to claim the relief, the government says:
Businesses that received the retail discount in 2019-20 will be re-billed by their local authority as soon as possible.
Those businesses eligible for the newly expanded retail discount and/or the new pubs discount may need to apply to their local authority to receive the discount.
Any enquiries on eligibility for, or provision of, the reliefs should be directed to the relevant local authority.
Government guidance for local authorities on the application of the expanded retail discount will be published by 20th March.

Support for businesses that pay little or no business rates

The government will provide additional funding for local authorities to support small businesses that already pay little or no business rates because of small business rate relief (SBBR). This will provide a one-off grant of £10,000 to businesses currently eligible for SBRR or rural rate relief, to help meet their ongoing business costs.

If your business is eligible for SBRR or rural rate relief, you will be contacted by your local authority – you do not need to apply.

Funding for the scheme will be provided to local authorities by government in early April. Guidance for local authorities on the scheme will be provided shortly.
If you currently don’t receive any relief, you can check with your Local Authority for your eligibility. You can find your local authority by clicking on https://www.gov.uk/find-local-council

More information is set to be announced in the coming weeks and further details on how to apply. In the meantime, businesses with immediate concerns are advised to contact
https://www.gov.uk/business-support-helpline

Insurance

Businesses that have cover for both pandemics and government-ordered closure should be covered, as the government and insurance industry confirmed on 17 March 2020 that advice to avoid pubs, theatres etc is sufficient to make a claim.

Insurance policies differ significantly, so businesses are encouraged to check the terms and conditions of their specific policy and contact their providers. Most businesses are unlikely to be covered, as standard business interruption insurance policies are dependent on damage to property and will exclude pandemics.

Weekly Webinar Support

We will shortly be commencing a weekly Coronavirus Contingency Planning webinar support program aimed at keeping business owners updated, and sharing best practice and ideas. These will begin on Wednesday 18th March 6-7pm. To register click on https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_FxK4GVgFQz-wBMGzavUnPA