The government has announced several measures to support businesses impacted by coronavirus (COVID-19) in the latest Budget. These include a statutory sick pay relief package for SMEs, small business grant funding for businesses who receive Small Business Rates Relief (SBRR), a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, and the HMRC Time To Pay Scheme. New legal powers will be brought forward in the coronavirus bill, enabling the government to offer "whatever further financial support we think necessary to businesses".
Legislation will be brought forward to allow small- and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim two weeks’ worth of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for each employee who has been off work and claimed SSP due to coronavirus. Businesses with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible for the scheme. Businesses need to keep records of staff absences and payments of SSP due to coronavirus, but employees will not need to provide a note from their GP. The eligibility period will begin the day after the regulations come into force and the government will work with businesses to set up a repayment system as soon as possible.
The government will provide funding to local authorities to give small businesses additional support. Businesses that are currently eligible for Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) or Rural Rate Relief will be eligible for a one-off grant of £10,000 to help meet ongoing business costs.
A coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, will help businesses access bank lending and overdrafts. The Scheme will support loans of up to £5 million, and businesses will be able to access the first twelve months of that finance interest-free, as the Government will cover the first twelve months of interest payments.
A new coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will help any employer in the country to cover most of the wages of employees who aren’t working but are being kept on payroll rather than being laid off. The government pledged grants of “80% of the salary of retained workers up to a total of £2,500 a month” - an income above the median range. Wages backdated to the 1st March will be covered by the scheme and will be open for three months, with the possibility of an extension.
Mortgage lenders have agreed they will support customers that are experiencing issues with their finances as a result of the pandemic, through payment holidays of up to three months. This has been extended to Buy to Let mortgages, to help landlords with tenants in financial difficulties due to coronavirus.
Letting agencies that have had to close to limit the spread of COVID-19 will be exempt from business rates for the 2020-2021 financial year. Eligible businesses will be sent a new bill by their local authority, giving them the 100% discount. Businesses that have already started to make payments will be refunded.
Businesses that are in financial distress and have outstanding tax liabilities may be eligible for support through HMRC’s Time To Pay service. This support is agreed on a case-by-case basis. If you’re worried about being able to pay tax because of coronavirus, call HMRC’s helpline on 0800 0159 559.
The government has also announced further measures to defer VAT payments for all businesses until the end of June, with an extension until the end of the financial year to then repay those bills.
This article is based on the government’s guidance, COVID-19: support for businesses. It is intended as a guide only, is not exhaustive, and should not be considered legal advice. For more information on the support available for businesses impacted by coronavirus, visit gov.uk.
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