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Chancellor ‘steps up’ Covid support for businesses

Posted on 22 Oct 2020 and read 580 times
Chancellor ‘steps up’ Covid support for businessesThe Government today announced that it will significantly enhance its winter support schemes to ensure businesses and jobs around the UK continue to be protected in the difficult months to come, thereby supporting jobs and helping to contain the Coronavirus.

In recognition of the challenging times ahead, the Chancellor said he will increase support through the existing Job Support and self-employed schemes, as well as expand business grants to help companies in Tier 3 areas.

This builds on agreements reached with Local Authorities moving to Tier 3 alert levels, with extra support for businesses, jobs and the economic recovery.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said: “I’ve always said that we must be ready to adapt our financial support as the situation evolves, and that is what we are doing today. These changes mean that our support will reach many more people and protect many more jobs.

“I know that the introduction of further restrictions has left many people worried for themselves, their families and communities. I hope the Government’s stepped-up support can be part of the country pulling together in the coming months.”

Recognising the pressure businesses in some sectors and areas are facing, the Government says that today’s announcement lightens the burden of keeping on staff. When originally announced, the JSS – which will come into effect on 1 November – saw employers paying a third of their employees’ wages for hours not worked, and required employers to be working 33% of their normal hours.

Today’s announcement reduces the employer contribution to those unworked hours to just 5%, and reduces the minimum hours requirements to 20%, so those working just one day a week will be eligible. That means that if someone was being paid £587 for their unworked hours, the Government would be contributing £543 and their employer only £44.

Employers will continue to receive the £1,000 Job Retention Bonus. Meanwhile, the ‘Job Support Scheme Closed’ for businesses legally required to close remains unchanged.

Today’s announcement increases the amount of profits covered by the two forthcoming self-employed grants from 20% to 40%, meaning the maximum grant will increase from £1,875 to £3,750. This is a potential further £3.1 billion of support to the self-employed through November to January alone, with a further grant to follow covering February to April.

The Chancellor has also announced approved additional funding to support cash grants of up to £2,100 per month primarily for businesses in the hospitality, accommodation and leisure sector who may be adversely impacted by the restrictions in high-alert level areas.

These grants will be available retrospectively for areas who have already been subject to restrictions, and come on top of higher levels of additional business support for Local Authorities moving into Tier 3 which, if scaled up across the country, would be worth more than £1 billion.

These grants could benefit around 150,000 businesses in England, including hotels, restaurants, B&Bs and many more who aren’t legally required to close but have been adversely affected by local restrictions nonetheless.

Mike Cherry, Federation of Small Businesses national chairman, said: “This is a welcome intervention which will help protect more jobs and small businesses, as well as self-employed traders, through the difficult winter months.

“Measures to combat Covid-19 make this a tough time for many small businesses, but we are determined to make it through. These measures will help make that happen.”

Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director general, said: “The Job Support Scheme will be a welcome and much-needed successor to the furlough scheme and will protect many livelihoods when it begins. It is right that businesses contribute if they wish to access this scheme. But with a tough winter ahead, significantly increased Government contributions to non-worked hours across all regions will do even more to protect people’s livelihoods.

“Meanwhile it is great to see the extra grant funding give local authorities the discretion to target where support is needed most. This is a big step towards a more standardised approach of support for areas going into Tiers Two and Three and those businesses that face tough times that operate within them.”

Stephen Phipson, Make UK chief executive, added: “The Chancellor has said that he would work hard to protect jobs and today’s statement is another critical step, particularly making the JSS much more accessible to employers. This is especially important for areas under tighter restrictions who are the hardest hit.

“This will help ensure that regional economies are able to function as normally as possible so that every sector and the economy overall benefits.”