COVID-19: Support Measures for Businesses and Individuals

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The following support measures were announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 12 March 2020 and were further extended in his Statement to the House on 17 March 2020:

Businesses

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

Small and medium sized businesses will be entitled to reclaim up to 2 weeks SSP per eligible employee paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19.

  • Must employ less than 250 employees as at 28/02/20
  • Will be required to keep records of staff absences and payments of SSP but will not require GP fit note from employees.
  • Eligible period commences 14/03/20
  • Repayment will be made as soon as possible after repayment mechanism has been set up.

Business Rates

  • All businesses in the retail, hospitality or leisure sectors will be entitled to 100% Business Rates retail discount for the 2020/21 tax year.
  • Properties below £51,000 rateable value will be provided with a cash grant of up to £25,000 per business to help support cashflow and fixed costs.
  • Relief will be expanded to leisure and hospitality sectors.
  • For further information on eligibility for the relief and to apply to receive the discount, you should contact Cheshire East or Cheshire West and Chester Councils after 20/03/20, when the guidance for local authorities will be published.

Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) One-Off Grant

  • If your business is eligible for SBBR or Rural Business Rate Relief you will be given a one-off grant of £10,000 to help meet on-going costs.
  • You do not need to apply but will instead be contacted by your local authority.
  • It is anticipated that the grants will be issued from late-April onwards.

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)

  • Delivered by the British Business Bank, the scheme is intended to support SMEs to access bank lending and overdrafts.
  • To be eligible, the SME must be (i) UK based, (ii) have a turnover not exceeding £41m per annum, (iii) operate within an eligible industrial sector, (iv) have a sound borrowing proposal but insufficient security to meet the lender's normal requirements, and (v) confirm that they have not received de minimis State aid beyond €200,000 over the current and previous two fiscal years.
  • The scheme will support loans of up to £5m per small business. There will be no interest due for the first six months and thereafter rates will be similar to current bank lending.The SME borrower will remain 100% liable for the debt.
  • The scheme's details, specification and eligibility criteria are currently being finalised. It is expected that the scheme will be up and running by the start of next week. For detailed information on CBILS and to keep up-to-date with developments, please visit the CBILS webpage on the British Business Bank's website.

Support from HMRC

  • Dedicated COVID-19 helpline -- 0800 0159 559 (Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm, and Saturday 8am to 4pm)
  • To enable businesses concerned about paying their tax due to coronavirus to get practical help and advice.
  • HMRC will discuss specific circumstances to explore options available, which could include agreeing an instalment arrangement, suspending debt collection proceedings and cancelling penalties and interest where you have administrative difficulties contacting or paying HMRC.

It is anticipated that there will be a potential support package specifically for airlines and airports as well as identifying other specific opportunities to support the most affected sectors, including regulatory forbearance.

The Chancellor has also confirmed that there is likely to be further measures announced in the coming days.

You can find further information in the Government's COVID-19: guidance for employees, employers and businesses (Last updated 17/03/20).

Individuals

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

  • If you are eligible for SSP, you are entitled to claim SSP from 13/03/20 if you are unable to work due to coronavirus or as a result of self-isolating.SSP will be paid from the first day of your illness.
  • If you work in the gig economy or are on a zero hours contract, you may still be entitled to SSP.
  • If you are self-employed then you should apply for Universal Credit. The requirements of the Minimum Income Floor have been relaxed to ensure that self-employed claimants are able to access support.
  • If you are not eligible for SSP, you can:
  • apply for Universal Credit online. You will not be required to provide a Fit Note and, if you are affected by COVID-19, you can receive up to a month's advance without attending the jobcentre; and/or
  • apply for new style Employment and Support Allowance. You will not be required to provide a Fit Note and the usual 7 day waiting days for new claimants will not apply to those affected by COVID-19. Instead, ESA will be paid from day one.
  • If you have worked during the last 2 -- 3 years and paid and/or been credited with sufficient NI contributions, you may be able to claim New Style Jobseeker's Allowance. New Style JSA can be claimed on its own or at the same time as Universal Credit. Your savings and capital (or your partner's savings, capital and income) are not taken into account when claiming New Style JSA.

If you are already claiming benefits

  • All face-to-face assessments have been temporarily suspended -- if you already have an assessment date, you do not need to attend. You will be contacted by your assessment provider, who will explain the next steps to you. If you are awaiting a date for an assessment appointment, you will be contacted by telephone or letter to let you know what is happening next.
  • If you have a jobcentre appointment but are unable to attend due to COVID-19 or self-isolating you will not be sanctioned if you notify DWP in good time. Your mandatory work search and work availability requirements will be removed during your period of sickness.
  • If you are in receipt of Universal Credit but are unable to work due to COVID-19 or self-isolation, please notify your work coach as soon as possible via your online journal or by calling the Universal Credit helpline.

Mortgage Payment Holiday

Mortgage lenders will offer support for those in difficulty as a result of COVID-19, including the option of at least a 3 month mortgage payment holiday.
For further information, including eligibility and implications of a payment holiday, please see UK Finance's website.

Hardship Fund

To be used by Local Authorities to support economically vulnerable people and households e.g. provision of additional Council Tax Relief.
Further information on the fund and its distribution is expected imminently.
The Chancellor has also confirmed that there is likely to be further measures announced in the coming days, particularly in relation to support for those who are self-employed or living in rented accommodation.

You can find further information on coronavirus and claiming benefits on the Department for Work and Pensions' Universal Credit website.