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Northern Ireland: Government & other support for business

04 May 2020

belfast skyline

Last updated Monday 4th May 2020

This briefing provides information on Government & other support for business in Northern Ireland in response to Covid-19. 

* Update on Coronavirus Job Retention scheme - Furlough scheme cut-off date extended to 19th March. Read more here.

£25,000 Retail, Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure Grant

The NI Executive is providing a one-off grant of £25,000 to ratepayers in the retail, hospitality, tourism and leisure sectors who pay rates on a property with a rateable value between £15,001 and £51,000. Registrations are open NOW - apply here. 

Bounce Back Loan Fact Sheets

Following the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s announcement, the Bounce Back Loan Scheme is now open for applications. Delivered by lenders accredited by the British Business Bank for this scheme, Bounce Back Loans target small and micro businesses in all sectors, providing loans from £2k up to 25% of the business’ turnover with a maximum loan of £50k. Providing lenders with a 100% government-backed guarantee and standardising the application form is expected to lead to a faster process with many loans becoming available within days. Read more here.

Business rates relief

In Northern Ireland, there will be a 3 month business rates holiday, applying to all businesses. Rates bills will be deferred from April to June to help with short-term cashflow.

The grants and business rate relief scheme is devolved to the NI Executive and the package they have announced will be administered by Invest NI.  Details can be found here.

Small Business Grant Scheme 

The NI Executive is providing one-off grants to small businesses to help them to meet their ongoing business costs

A grant of £10,000 will be paid to small businesses that already pay reduced business rates because of Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR). SBRR is automatically applied to business properties with a rateable value below £15,000, though some exclusions apply.

First payment will be March 31, if not before.
Online portal now live to register bank details here. 

Extended Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) 

The Government has extended the CBILS so that all viable small businesses affected by COVID-19, and not just those unable to secure regular commercial financing, will now be eligible should they need finance to keep operating during this difficult time. 

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. 

More details here.

Furlough/ Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)

The online service is now open for you to make a claim and extended until 30 June.

The service is designed to be simple to use. Apply by 22 April to receive money before the end of the month. A step by step guide for employers is available below.

There has also been an extension of the eligibility criteria for the CJRS to those who were on a company's PAYE payroll on 19 March 2020 (previously 28 February 2020). Read more here.

Financial Support for Self-Employed

The UK Chancellor of the Exchequer has extended the Government’s Financial Support Package to protect the jobs of the self-employed. KPMG have created a guide to outline to specific financial measures relevant to the self-employed. Details here

New Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS)

The new CLBILS will ensure that more firms are able to benefit from government-backed support during this difficult time. 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.

This scheme is now LIVE - more details here.  

Coronavirus Future Fund

The Future Fund will provide government loans to UK-based companies ranging from £125,000 to £5 million, subject to at least equal match funding from private investors.

These convertible loans may be a suitable option for businesses that rely on equity investment and are unable to access the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.

The scheme will be delivered in partnership with the British Business Bank. More details here. 

Priority Sectors List Published

The list of priority business sectors aims to clarify what constitutes a priority sector at this time and to support companies to continue their business operations if they can work within social distancing guidelines. Access the list here. 

£20 million for ambitious technologies to build UK resilience following coronavirus outbreak.

Grants of up to £50,000 will be available to technology and research-focussed businesses to develop new ways of working and help build resilience in industries such as delivery services, food manufacturing, retail and transport, as well as support people at home in circumstances like those during the coronavirus outbreak. Read more here

HMRC tax helpline

HMRC has set up a helpline for businesses and self-employed people who are concerned about paying their tax due to COVID-19. The updated helpline number to support customers impacted by coronavirus is 0800 024 1222 and is open from 8am to 4pm Monday to Friday. 

HMRC have introduced this number to ensure extra capacity on their network so customers can get through to us more quickly. Calls to the old helpline number will be redirected.

IoD NI issues 10-point plan to mitigate the economic impacts of coronavirus

 The 10-point plan has been developed by IoD NI with assistance from Ulster University Economic Policy Centre and Belfast-based consultancy firm Belmont Strategy; and is based on input from IoD NI members from across Northern Ireland.

If implemented, the proposed interventions will support businesses throughout the region as they attempt to manage the economic fallout of the pandemic, which has severely impacted almost every sector. Read more here. 

Support for businesses who are paying sick pay to employees

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 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of coronavirus. Details here.

Government Suppliers of Products and Services

The NI Executive has agreed to implement measures to ensure that Departments pay their government suppliers as quickly as possible to maintain cash flow and protect jobs. Further detail of the measures are outlined in the latest Procurement Guidance Note - PGN 01/20 Supplier Relief Due to Covid-19. Details here

This will ensure cash continues to flow through the supply chain and will help with the paying of salaries and protection of jobs. Importantly it will mean suppliers struggling to meet their contractual obligations are able to resume service delivery when the outbreak is over.

3-month extension period to file accounts

Businesses will be given an additional 3 months to file accounts with Companies House to help avoid penalties as they deal with the impact of COVID-19. You must apply for the extension before your filing deadline. Details here.

Ventilator Support Needed

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is looking for organisations who can support in the supply of ventilators and ventilator components across the United Kingdom as part of the Government's response to COVID-19. Details here

Annual Leave

Rules on carrying over annual leave to be relaxed to support key industries during COVID-19
Workers who have not taken all of their statutory annual leave entitlement due to COVID-19 will now be able to carry it over into the next 2 leave years. More details here

Bank of England schemes

The measures on 11th March included a term funding scheme aimed at SMEs delivered via the banks (further detail here). Ask your bank about this support.

Another scheme for larger firms via the Bank of England is the Covid Corporate Financing Facility. A market notice, explaining some of the detail of how the facility will work, can be found here. Application forms and pricing will be added to the Bank of England’s website on Monday 23rd. The Bank will publish a dedicated webpage for corporates seeking to use the CCFF as soon as possible.

How will COVID-19 affect the NI Economy?

Read Ulster University Economic Policy Centre's latest report entitled: Economic consequences of COVID-19 in Northern Ireland here.

Help & Support from Local Companies:

  • SureCert: Working in partnership with Experian PLC and the GB Group, SureCert’s platform for digital identity is the only platform that can provide both elements of the recruiting process – finding people and getting them onboard, all in the one place. In light of the major problems within the labour market currently, SureCert will provide their services completely free in Northern Ireland to employers and candidates.  It is also usable for the recruitment of volunteers and community groups seeking manpower. Read more here
  • Financial Guidance: KPMG and Deloitte have offered financial guidance on topics such as cash flow and liquidity. For more details visit their website for more details KPMG and Deloitte
  • RNN Communications - RNN Communications are now offering businesses free online virtual hangout sessions with PR experts over the next six weeks. They are able to help with crisis communications, but also with planning, ideas and next steps for businesses when this passes…which it will. This is FREE consultancy time. All we ask in return is that you stay indoors where possible and help stop the spread. Get in touch here
  • Bitwise Group - Bitwise has over 20 years’ experience in the development of safety-critical software and systems for certified medical products and services, with a large team of engineers available to support any companies in the current challenge to combat COVID-19. Our engineers are fully operational working on a remote basis, if you require help and support please contact us
  • Carson McDowell - Carson McDowell have kindly offered to help with legal advice for IoD members. Get in touch here
  • ASG & Partners - At no cost or commitment, chat with one of the experienced communications team who will give you practical, positive advice. Get in touch via
  • The Consumer Council - The Consumer Council for NI have set up a help page for businesses who may be affected by COVID-19. Access the help page here. 
  • Galgorm Resort & Spa - Galgorm Collection donates £750,000 in experience vouchers for Northern Health & Social Care Trust. 

Useful links

Northern Ireland business information

Government support for the self-employed

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