Since our last update relevant to NI, there has been further clarifications regarding the Small Business Grant Scheme as well as new supports announced for small businesses. It is acknowledged that this is an extremely fluid and changing environment and as a result we will continue to provide further Coronavirus Updates.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) support is available to employers and the self-employed. You may be eligible for loans, tax relief and cash grants, whether your business is open or closed. Further information is coming through in relation to these measures and how to access them and this is being updated on Gov.UK and NI Business Info
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
What is it: Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, ALL UK employers will be able to access grants to continue paying part of their employees’ salary with there being no limit on the overall fund for making payments.
What does it cover: In respect of furloughed workers, these grants will cover 80% of their Monthly Gross Wage (up to a max of £2,500 plus the associated Employer National Insurance Contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on that wage) if employers cannot cover staff costs due to COVID-19. Employers could choose to fund the remaining 20% of salary, but do not have to. In respect of this scheme, furloughed workers are those workers that are allowed to or are forced to be absent temporarily from work during the coronavirus pandemic and who have not been made redundant. On 29th May, the government announced further information in relation to the flexibility of the CJRS.
From 1 July businesses will be allowed to bring back furloughed employees on a part time basis for any amount of time and any shift pattern and will still be able to claim CJRS grant for their normal hours not worked. To claim the CJRS for furloughed hours, employers will need to report and claim for a minimum period of a week. Businesses will be responsible for paying employees wages for the number of hours worked.
The CJRS will close to new entrants from 30 June – this means that the final date by which an employer can furlough an employee for the first time will be 10 June to ensure they meet the current 3 consecutive week furlough period.
From 1 August 2020, the government has announced it will commence tapering the level of support made available via the furlough scheme.
What this means:
June & July: Government to pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500 plus employers NIC and Pensions Contributions. Employers are not required to contribute.
August: Government to pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500. Employers to pay employers NIC and Pensions Contributions.
September: Government to pay 70% of wages up to a cap of £2,188. Employers to pay employers NIC and Pensions Contribution plus 10% of wages to make up to 80% up to a cap of £2,500.
October: Government to pay 60% of wages up to a cap of £1,875. Employers to pay employers NIC and Pensions Contribution plus 20% of wages to make up to 80% up to a cap of £2,500.
For what period: The scheme will be back dated to 1 March 2020 and was originally open for 3 months and then extended to 30 June. The Chancellor announced on 12 May 2020 that this scheme has been extended until 31 October 2020.
Who is eligible: The scheme will be available for ALL employees that were on a UK payroll on 19 March 2020. Originally staff had to be employed on 28 February 2020 to qualify for the scheme. New guidance has confirmed the eligibility date has been extended to 19 March 2020. Employers can claim for furloughed employees that were employed and on their PAYE payroll on or before 19 March 2020. This means that the employee must have been notified to HMRC through an RTI submission notifying payment in respect of that employee on or before 19 March 2020.
Previously guidance outlined that furloughed employees should not undertake work for employers while they are furloughed. The new flexibility measures will mean that from 1st August 2020, furloughed workers will be allowed to work part time for their employers. Further guidance will be made available prior to the end of May 2020. Furloughed employees should not undertake work for employers while they are furloughed. This will allow employers to claim the grant. Furloughed employees can be on any type of contract including full time employees, part-time employees, employees on agency contracts, employees on flexible or zero hour contracts, but must have been on the Employer’s PAYE Payroll on or before 19th March 2020. The scheme also covers employees who were made redundant or stopped working for the employer after the 28 February 2020 and prior to 19 March 2020, if they are rehired by their employer.
Normally, an employee cannot switch freely out of a salary sacrifice scheme unless there is a life event. HMRC agrees that COVID-19 counts as a life event that could warrant changes to salary sacrifice arrangements, if the relevant employment contract is updated accordingly.
Self-employed limited company directors can be furloughed as employees on their PAYE income, even if they are the sole employee. They can continue to form their statutory obligations as directors of the company, e.g. official legal filings etc.
IR35 contractors working for public sector organisations through personal service companies who are unable to carry on working due to the COVID-19 pandemic are now eligible for the 80% Furlough Scheme. This would include Nurses and Doctors working as locums across NHS and IT contractors working on Strategic IT projects.
In order to claim you must have created and started a payroll scheme on or before 19th March 2020, enrolled for PAYE online and have a UK Bank Account.
How to access: HMRC are working urgently to set up systems to administer the scheme. What employers will need to do:
- designate affected employees as ‘furloughed workers,’ and notify your employees of this change
- submit information to HMRC about the employees that have been furloughed and their earnings through a new online portal (HMRC to issue further details on the information required and on their new portal)
What employers should expect: Businesses and agents that are authorised to act on behalf of clients for PAYE matters, will be able to claim. However, file only agents, will not be able to access the service due to data protection reasons. HMRC have started paying grants, however businesses should recognise there may be a funding gap between the payment of wages and the eventual receipt of the grant which they could be required to finance. It is advised that employers prepare for this and assess their cashflow position to determine if your business needs short term cash flow support. Re April 2020, for employee to get paid before 30th April, CJRS claim had to be made before 23.59 hours on Wednesday 22nd April.
HMRC are running step by step webinars on how to make your claim. Payment in respect of claims are to be received 6 working days after making an application. To receive payment prior to end of May 2020, your claim will have to be submitted on or before 22 May. Claims can be made 14 days in advance.
It is important that you are fully prepared prior to making a claim as applications must be completed in one session with no save and return option.
It is likely that HMRC will carry out audits of furloughed businesses, thus employers to ensure payroll systems and personnel files are maintained.
For more information: Click Here
Job Retention Bonus
What is it: The Job Retention Bonus Scheme is aimed at helping businesses retain employees who were furloughed during the Coronavirus pandemic.
What does it cover: For each furloughed employee who is brought back to work following the end of the CJRS and is continuously employed up to 31 January 2021, a one off bonus of £1k will be paid to their UK employer
For what period: This Bonus is a one off payment
Who is eligible: To be eligible for the bonus, employees much have been furloughed at any point and legitimately claimed for under CJRS and earn above the lower earnings limit (£520) per month on average between the end of the CJRS (31 October 2020) and 31 January 2021.
How to access: For each eligible employee, the employer should expect to receive the bonus payments from February 2021 following receipt of accurate RTI data to 31 January. Further guidance is to be announced at the end of July 2020.
Bounce Back Loan Scheme
What is it: The Bounce Back Loan Scheme was announced on 27 April 2020 and is a fast track finance scheme designed to help small and medium sized businesses affected by Covid-19 to apply for loans of up to £50,000.
What does it cover: Loans of between £2,000 - £50,000 are available with the government guaranteeing 100% of the loan. No repayments, fees or interest will be payable during the first 12 months. The government has outlined it will work with lenders to agree a low rate of interest for the remaining term of the loan, which can be up to 6 years.
Who is eligible: Businesses must be based in the UK, been negatively affected by Covid-19 and not an ‘undertaking in difficulty’ on 31 December 2019. Businesses who secured support under the CBILS cannot apply but may transfer the CBILS to the Bounce Back Scheme if the CBILS loan was £50,000 or less. This can be arranged with the lender up until 4 November 2020.
How to access: The scheme will launch on 4 May 2020 and will be delivered through a network of accredited lenders. Government have outlined that the loans will be easy to apply for through a short, standardised online application with loans reaching businesses within days. For further information click Here.
What is it: Rates holiday for businesses
What does it cover: There will be a four-month rates holiday for ALL business ratepayers, excluding public sector and utilities (extended 19 May 2020). In addition with respect specifically to Hospitality, Tourism, Leisure and Childcare businesses in Northern Ireland these will not have to pay rates until after 31 March 2021.
For what period: This means that no rates will be charged for April, May, June & July 2020. This automatically reduces the 2020-21 annual rate bill for business ratepayers by 33%. This amount does not need to be paid back. In addition, rate bills for 2020-21 were due to be issued in Apr’20. To avoid placing financial pressure on ratepayers affected by COVID-19, rate bills will not be issued until July 2020.
How to Access: This will happen automatically. The rates holiday will automatically apply and ratepayers do not need to request to have their rate bill deferred until July 2020. Monthly Direct Debit payment plans will be automatically updated to collect payments between July 2020 and March 2021
For more information: Click Here
Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)
What is it: A new temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank and 22 participating lenders in Northern Ireland, aims to support primarily SMEs to access bank lending and overdrafts. Scheme was amended on Friday 3rd April 2020.
What does it include: The loan scheme will support businesses to apply for a loan of up to £5 million, with the government providing lenders with a government-backed guarantee of 80% of 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 fees to businesses or banks. The borrower always remains 100% liable for the debt.
What does it cover: A wide range of business finance products are supported including term loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance. The government will cover the first 12 months of interest payments. Finance terms are up to six years for term loans and asset finance facilities. For overdrafts and invoice finance facilities, terms will be up to three years. Applications will not be limited to businesses that have been refused a loan on commercial terms, extending the number who benefit. However the Treasury has not capped the interest rates banks can charge.
Security: Banks will be banned from asking company owners to guarantee loans with their own savings or properties when borrowing up to £250,000. For facilities above £250,000, the
lender must establish a lack or absence of security prior to businesses using CBILS.
Who is eligible: You are eligible for the scheme if:
- Your application is for business purposes
- Your SME business is UK based, with a turnover of no more than £45 million per year
- Larger firms with a turnover of up to £500m will also be eligible for more help – with state-backed loans of up to £25m available to firms with revenues of between £45m - £500m, who are unable to secure regular commercial financing
- Your business generates more than 50% of its turnover from trading activity
- Your CBILS-backed facility will be used to support primarily trading in the UK
- You have a borrowing proposal which, were it not for the COVID-19 pandemic, would be considered viable by the lender, and for which the lender believes the provision of finance will enable your business to trade out of any short-to-medium term difficulty
How to access: The scheme is now available with 23 participating lenders in Northern Ireland with AIB recently added to the scheme.
It is recommended that if you are experiencing lost or deferred revenues, leading to disruptions to cashflows that you talk to your bank or finance provider (not the British Business Bank) as soon as possible and discuss your business plan with them.
For more information: Click Here
Organisations Emergency Programme for Arts Activity
What is it: The Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the Department for Communities has created a new financial support programme for small and medium-sized organisations to apply for maximum funding of £25,000 to help them to:
- develop new projects or programmes
- re-arrange events which have had to be cancelled during the COVID-19 period
The Organisations Emergency Programme is a rolling programme that will provide £500,000 to support arts organisations with individual grants of up to £25,000.
Who is eligible: The Arts Council of Northern Ireland welcomes applications from arts or cultural organisations whose primary work is in the following art form or cultural areas:
- Music and opera.
- Traditional arts.
- Visual arts.
- Participatory arts.
- Cross art form.
Arts organisation applicants need to have a proven track record of quality work and public engagement supported by public funding in one of the last three financial years.
Applications are invited from accredited museums and independent libraries whose work focuses on delivering greater access to culture and heritage, including enhancing understanding and interpretation. In particular, applications are welcome from organisations which deliver work that involves:
- Public engagement activities.
- Audience development programmes (events, exhibitions, workshops, talks and online initiatives).
Who cannot apply: The following are excluded from applying to the scheme:
- Individuals including sole traders.
- Broadcasters (excluding community service broadcasters).
- Central government departments.
- Local authorities.
- Unaccredited museums.
- Libraries within Libraries NI.
- Arts organisations who cannot evidence some form of public funding in the past three years.
- Proposals which, before the end of social distancing, entail public gathering or conventional audience situations; or otherwise breach social distancing and other COVID-19 guidelines.
How to access: Applications for the scheme can be made using the online form or by downloading a copy of the form. Application forms and guidance notes for the Organisations Emergency Fund are available from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.
The Arts Council of Northern Ireland will aim to inform applicants on the outcome of their application within three months of the closing date.
Support For Larger Firms Through The Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility
What is it: This facility will provide funding to businesses by purchasing commercial paper of up to one-year maturity, issued by firms making a material contribution to the UK economy.
By purchasing short-term corporate debt – known as commercial paper – the scheme provides a quick and cost-effective way to raise working capital for companies who are fundamentally strong but are experiencing severe disruption to cashflows, helping businesses across a range of sectors to pay wages and suppliers.
This will support your company if it has been affected by a short-term funding squeeze and allow you to finance your short-term liabilities. It will also support corporate finance markets overall and ease the supply of credit to all firms.
Who is eligible: All non-financial companies that meet the criteria set out on the Bank of England’s website are eligible.
How to apply: The scheme will be available early in week beginning 23 March 2020.
For more information: Click Here
Covid-19 Grant For UK Hospitality Workers
What is it: Applications for this scheme have now closed. They may re-open.
Deferment of VAT Payments
What is it: The UK government has announced that all VAT payments are postponed for the next three months until the end of June 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic.
For what period: This means that the requirement to pay VAT for VAT periods ending February, March and April 2020 can be deferred until 2021. The Government has confirmed that it will continue to pay VAT refunds and VAT reclaims as normal for eligible claims. In addition, taxpayers will be given until the end of the tax year 2020/21 to pay any VAT liabilities that have accumulated during this deferral period.
Who is eligible? All VAT registered businesses and self-employed.
How to access: This is an automatic relief. No application necessary
For more information: Click Here
Reduction in VAT Rates for Hospitality & Tourism Sectors
What is it: VAT rates in the hospitality & tourism sector is to be cut from 20% to 5% for the 6 months to 31 January 2021.
What does it cover: The reduced VAT rate will apply to:
- Eat-in or hot takeaway food and non-alcoholic drinks from restaurants, cafes, and pubs;
- Accommodation in hotels, B&Bs, campsites and caravan sites;
- Attractions such as cinemas, theme parks and zoos;
For what period: 15 July 2020 to 12 January 2021
HMRC Time to Pay Arrangements
HMRC has set up a phone helpline to support businesses and self-employed people concerned about not being able to pay their tax due to coronavirus (COVID-19).
The helpline allows any business or self-employed individual who is concerned about paying their tax due to coronavirus to get practical help and advice. Up to 2,000 experienced call handlers are available to support businesses and individuals when needed. If you run a business or are self-employed and are concerned about paying your tax due to coronavirus, you can call HMRC’s helpline for help and advice: 0800 0159 559.
For those who are unable to pay due to coronavirus, HMRC will discuss your specific circumstances to explore:
- agreeing an instalment arrangement
- suspending debt collection proceedings
- cancelling penalties and interest where you have administrative difficulties contacting or paying HMRC immediately
Opening hours are Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm, and Saturday 8am to 4pm. The helpline will not be available on Bank Holidays.
Self Employment Scheme
What is it: On 26 March the UK Government announced a package of support to protect the jobs of self-employed workers across the UK. The scheme will provide a taxable cash grant of 80% of an individual’s average monthly profits over the last three years of up to £2,500 per month. The scheme will initially cover the three-month period to May ’20. The government announced on 29 May that this scheme has been extended with those eligible for the first grant, eligible to make a claim for a second and final grant in August 2020. The second grant will be a taxable grant worth 70% of an individual’s average monthly profits over the last three years capped at £6,570 in total. Unlike the Job Retention Scheme for furloughed employees, the recipients of the Income Support Grant Scheme can continue their normal trading activity or take on other employment including voluntary work & retain their entitlement to the grant.
Who is eligible: The scheme is open for self-employed individuals, and members of partnerships, who meet the following conditions:
- Trading profits of less than £50,000 in 2018/19 or an average trading profit of less than £50,000 from 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19 tax years
- Using your tax returns, HMRC will calculate your trading profits by taking turnover less any allowable business expenses and capital expenditure. Note allowable expenses include capital allowances, flat rate expenses, qualifying care relief and business expenses deducted through the trading allowance. HMRC will note deduct any losses carried forward from earlier years from your trading profits
- More than half of their income in these periods must come from self-employment
- They must have traded in the 2019/20 tax year, are continuing to trade when they apply for the scheme (or would be except for COVID-19), intend to continue to trade in the 2020/21 tax year and they have lost trading profits due to COVID-19
- They have submitted an Income Self-Assessment Tax Return for 2018/19 tax year.
Individuals who pay themselves a salary and dividends through their own company are not covered by this scheme but will be covered for their salary by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, if they are operating PAYE schemes (refer to Relief 1)
How to access: HMRC are currently contacting those registered as self employed to complete an eligibility check and outline how and from what date they can make a claim. The scheme opens at 8am on Wednesday 13th May 2020 with grants to be paid directly into their Bank account in a single lump sum instalment covering the three-month period March, April and May 2020 by 25th May 2020 or 6 working days following the date of the claim. HMRC are offering free webinars to outline who can apply and how, the amount you can claim and other support available. Eligible individuals will need to make the claim themselves using their Government Gateway login. If eligible to make a claim for the first grant you must do this on or before 13 July 2020. Details in relation to how to claim the 2nd grant has not yet been published.
Next steps: Self-employed taxpayers are reminded, prior to grant payments becoming payable, they will still be able to access other available Government support for those affected by the Coronavirus including more generous Universal Credit referred to in Section 10 below and Business Continuity Loans where they have a business Bank account (referred to in Section 2).
The Government had previously introduced a number of other measures to help the self-employed and SME business owners and these are also referred to in this COVID-19 Update Briefing Note, specifically help with VAT deferral (referred to in Section 5) deferral of payment on accounts and Time to Pay (referred to in Section 7).
Self Employed / Individuals Supports
- Mortgage lenders have agreed that they will support customers through mortgage payment holidays of up to 3 months
- The minimum income floor for access to universal credit has been suspended for self-employed people affected by the economic impact of coronavirus
- Universal credit standard allowance increasing by £1,000 for the next 12 months
- Self-assessment income tax payments for the self -employed initially due by 31 July 2020 can be deferred to 31 January 2021
- Interest rate reduced to 0.1%
COVID-19 Charities Fund
What is the COVID-19 Charities Fund?
The National Lottery Community Fund is distributing the COVID-19 Charities Fund on behalf of the Department for Communities.
The Fund is limited. We will only be able to provide funding for costs that are unavoidable, so it is important to think about what you can do or have already done to reduce your expenditure.
We will not be able to fund new programme activity or costs associated with on-going activity that could be suspended.
If demand is high, priority will be given to those charities that communities rely on the most to deliver essential services and to ensuring equitable distribution.
Who can apply?
Charities applying must meet all of the following eligibility criteria:
- Have been formed prior to 31 March 2020 and be a lawfully operating charity as defined by the Charities Act (NI) 2008
- Have at least two unrelated people on its board or committee
- Have a UK bank or building society account in the legal name of the charity with at least two unrelated people who can manage the account
- Have been financially stable prior to the impact of COVID-19 and where The National Lottery Community Fund have no concerns regarding fraud or financial mismanagement
- Be able to demonstrate that their fundraising or trading income has reduced due to the impact of COVID-19 and they have unavoidable costs to cover up to 30 September 2020
- Have unavoidable costs that cannot be covered by existing grants or public funding and are therefore at imminent risk
- Have not received other COVID-19 financial support from NI Executive departments:
- Department for the Economy Small Business Support;
- Retail, Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure Grant
- Microbusiness Hardship Fund
- £6.5m fund for charities released by the Department of Finance for Hospices and charitie
Who won’t be able to apply?
Your charity is not eligible if it is a:
- Community Amateur Sports Club
- Community Interest Company
- Non charitable social enterprise
- Non charitable trading arm
Your charity is not eligible if it:
- Was formed after 31 March 2020
- Submitted an Expression of Interest (EOI) after 31 March 2020
- Was called forward by Commission for registration but failed to apply
- Was called forward by Commission for registration but your application was withdrawn and you never reapplied when invited to do so
- Was called forward by Commission for registration but your application was rejected and you never reapplied when invited to do so
- Has informed the Commission for Northern Ireland that you have or are about to close
- Has never informed the Commission of its existence
Can social enterprises apply?
Yes, social enterprises can apply as long as they are a local charity and meet the eligibility criteria.
Can a faith based charity apply?
Yes, faith based charities can apply as long as they meet the eligibility criteria.
How to apply
Use the eligibility check at the start of the application to help you find out whether you are eligible to apply.
If you are eligible you can continue completing the application form and submit the required documentation to support your application.
More information can be found at https://www.communities-ni.gov.uk/covid-19-charities-fund
Support For Businesses Who Are Paying Sick Pay to Employees
What is it: The Government will bring forward legislation to allow employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from day one of employees absence. This will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because 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 as alternative means of certification will be considered acceptable in these circumstances. SSP is available in respect of employees earning an average of £118 per week and is payable at a rate of £94.25 a week.
Who is eligible: Small or medium-sized UK based business employing fewer than 250 employees as of 28 February 2020.
How to access: A rebate scheme is being developed. The eligibility period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of SSP to those staying at home comes into force. Further details will be provided in due course once the legislation is passed.
The Government will work with employers over the coming months to set up the repayment mechanism for their businesses as soon as possible.
For more information: Click Here
InterTradeIreland Emergency Business Supports
What is it: InterTradeIreland, the cross-border trade body established under the Good Friday / Belfast Agreement, has announced two additional supports for businesses, to help them respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. These two supports are known as firstly, Emerging Business Solutions and secondly, E-Merge Programme.
Under the Emergency Business Solutions Programme, InterTradeIreland would provide emergency business support to the value of £2,000/€2,250 (including VAT) to ensure businesses can avail of essential support to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In respect of the E-Merge initiative, this is a programme led by the InterTradeIreland staff team to help businesses develop online sales and ecommerce solutions.
What does it cover: In respect of the Business Solutions Programme specific areas for consideration include the following:
- Guidance and direction to relevant Government Supports and help in applying, where feasible.
- Emerging guidance: cashflow/people/supply chain;
- Completion of lending applications for loan supports;
- HR and People relating issues (covering employment, contracts, redundancy advice and other legal aspects); and
- Helping businesses change production to offer other products or services to mitigate immediate risk.
Who is eligible: InterTradeIreland have extended this support with applications invited from SMEs from the manufacturing and tradeable service sector registered on the island of Ireland (North or South), no previous involvement with ITI is required. To qualify for support, businesses must trade cross border on the island of Ireland, i.e have customers or suppliers in the opposite jurisdiction from where they are based; have a satisfactory trading history (min. 18 months & established turnover); have the capacity to deliver the project; and have less than 250 employees and annual turnover of less than £40m
How to access: In respect of Emergency Business Solutions, click here to complete the online application form
In respect of E-Merge Programme, click here to complete the online application form.
Availability is limited, it is recommended that you apply early to secure this fully funded support.
Charities Aid Foundation – Coronavirus Emergency Fund
What is it: In this time of national crisis, Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) has launched a rapid response Fund to help smaller charitable organisations affected by the impact of Covid-19. Grants of up to £10,000 will help them to continue to deliver much needed support to communities across the UK.
It is intended as a rapid response fund, and the aim to make payments to selected organisations within 14 days of application.
What does it cover: Unrestricted funding for core costs, staffing, volunteer costs, supplies and equipment, communications or other critical charitable areas. You must be able to describe how an emergency grant will improve the situation for your organisation and community.
Please make only one application. Multiple applications will slow the process down and only one grant is possible for any organisation.
Please remember that this is intended as an emergency fund to enable your charitable activities to continue at the moment in whatever way is needed; it is not designed to replace other lost income in the longer term.
Who is eligible: Smaller Charities. A high number of applicants are anticipated and unfortunately it is likely that CAF will not be able to offer a grant to all eligible applicants.
How to access: Click Here
Coronavirus Community Fund
What is it: A new £400,000 Coronavirus Community Fund has been announced by Community Foundation NI for Northern Ireland.
What does it cover: Grants of £1,000 are available however, applications for up to £2,500 of emergency funding to community organisations working with older people (aged 50 and over) to help them to deliver support during the outbreak, will be considered.
The current focus is to support groups and organisations working with the following communities and issues and that are affected by Coronavirus:
- Older people (aged over 50)
- Those at increased risk, particularly in relation to poor mental health and wellbeing
- Vulnerable isolated people and families, particularly those living in rural areas, families where a parent/ both parents have lost their employment or where children are living in poverty
- Children and young people’s projects, particularly focusing on the voice of young people and connecting through creative mediums.
Who is eligible: The fund will be open to constituted community organisations throughout Northern Ireland.
How to access: Click Here
Clothworkers’ Emergency Capital Programme
What is it: The Clothworkers' Foundation is designating £300,000 to help small and medium charities responding to the COVID 19 outbreak with capital grants of up to £5,000 each.
What does it cover: The Clothworkers’ Emergency Capital Programme (CECP) will award small capital grants of up to £5,000 for essential capital items to adapt or increase services in response to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. Priority will be given to organisations supporting vulnerable and ‘at risk’ groups within specific programme areas during this period.
Who is eligible: Small and medium charities.
How to access: Click Here
UK’s Charity Sector Coronavirus (Covid-19) Support Package
What is it: On the 8th April 2020 UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak MP announced a £750m package of support to the UK Charity Sector to ensure they can continue their vital work during the Coronavirus period. The package is divided into a number of elements:
- £750m pot for frontline charities across the UK – including Hospices and those supporting domestic abuse victims
- £360m direct from Government Departments and £370m for smaller charities, including through a grant to the National Lottery Community Fund (NLCF)
- The Government will match donations to National Emergencies Trust as part of the BBC’s Big Night In fundraiser later this month – pledging a minimum of £20m
Where charitable services are devolved, the UK Government will apply the Barnett Formula in the normal way.
What does it cover: In respect of the UK wide package of £360m direct from Government Departments this would be directly allocated by Government Departments to charities providing key services and supporting vulnerable people during the crisis. With respect to the £370m for small and medium sized charities this will support those organisations at the heart of local communities which are making a big difference during the Coronavirus outbreak, including those delivering food, essential medicines and providing financial advice.
Who is eligible: In respect of the £360m package those eligible will include:
- Hospices to help increase capacity and give stability to the sector
- John’s Ambulance to support the National Health Service
- Victims Charities, including domestic abuse, to help with potential increase in demand for charities providing these services
- Vulnerable Children’s charities, so they can continue delivering services on behalf of local authorities
- Citizens Advice to increase the number of staff providing advice during this difficult time
How to access: Government Departments will now work at pace to identify priority recipients, with the aim for charities to receive the money in the coming weeks. Similarly applications for the National Lottery Community Fund grant pot are expected to be operational within a similar period of time.
Coronavirus (Covid-19) Support For Northern Ireland Fishing Industry
What is it: On 3rd April 2020 Northern Ireland Executive Fisheries Minister Edwin Poots MLA announced a £1.5m financial support package intended to help the Northern Ireland Fishing Fleet cover its fixed costs for 3 months.
What does it cover: The Northern Ireland Fishing Support package is based on a vessel size and the monthly payments to cover the fishing fleet fixed costs for 3 months are as follows:
Vessel Overall Length (Metres)
Monthly Payment (£)
0 – 10
10.01 – 11.99
12.00 – 14.99
15.00 and over
Who is eligible: To be eligible the following conditions apply:
- The vessel must be a fishing vessel registered in Northern Ireland.
- The vessel must normally be active during the period March to May.
- The vessel must have had fish landings of at least £10,000 in 2019.
- Vessels of overall length 28 metres or over are not eligible.
- The vessels must be available to fish if there is a market for their product (i.e. this is not a “tie-up” scheme).
How to access: The Department of Agriculture, Environmental and Rural Affairs will inform vessel owners in due course about how to apply for the scheme and provide further details including appeals. It is anticipated that the first payments would be made early in May 2020.
Hardship Funds For Sports Clubs & Sporting Organisations
What is it: A hardship fund totalling £750k, has been made available from the Department for Communities to sports clubs and sporting organisations from the voluntary and community sector with immediate financial commitments to maintain their facilities during Covid-19. These clubs and organisations, which are unable to receive other Government Covid-19 mitigation funds, can apply to Sport NI for a grant of £2,000.
What does it cover: The fund will support organisations highlighted above in meeting their on-going costs to include rent/lease, utility bills, insurances and essential maintenance etc.
Who is eligible: Any organisation delivering sport and physical recreation can apply to this hardship fund if experiencing short term financial hardship. These organisations include:
- National Governing Body of Sport (based in NI)
- Constituted local sports clubs affiliated to a Governing Body of Sport recognised by Sport NI
- Community & Voluntary sector organisations that deliver or enable sport and/or physical recreation
- Small charitable trusts that do not qualify for financial help elsewhere.
How to access: For more information on how to access Click Here
Although Invest NI are not operating specific supports in respect of the Coronavirus pandemic they are very keen to utilise all their existing programmes to assist Invest NI clients best respond to the Coronavirus and plan for the recovery post the Coronavirus. The best initial steps to follow up potential supports for Invest NI clients will either be through the Northern Ireland businessinfo.co.uk or through the business support line at 0800 181 4422. This contact line will then put the business in contact with the appropriate Invest NI Executive. Alternatively you can go to the website
Other Relevant Business Related Supports
COVID-19: R&D Tax Credits Repayments HMRC have switched resources so that they can make tax repayments quickly to help businesses struggling in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the biggest sources of tax repayments is claims for R&D tax credits. This applies to all sizes of businesses, small as well as big.
Water Bills: Bills in respect of water and sewerage for business and non-domestic customers will not be issued until July 2020. Non-domestic charges for water and sewerage which would have been billed during the period to July 2020 will be included in these bills.
The annual increase in non-domestic water and sewerage charges which were to be introduced on 1 April 2020 will now be deferred and reviewed in September 2020.
Making Tax Digital Extension: HMRC have announced a one-year extension of Making Tax Digital (MTD) to facilitate a VAT soft landing period in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. HMRC are providing all MTD businesses with more time to put in place digital links between all parts of their functional compatible software. This means that all businesses now have until their VAT Return period starting on or after 1 April 2021 to put digital links in place.
Three Month Extension of Filing of Accounts From 25th March 2020, businesses will be able to apply for a three-month extension for filing their accounts. The joint initiative is between the UK Government and Companies House and will mean businesses can prioritise managing the impact of the Coronavirus. As part of the agreed measures, while companies will still have to apply for the three-month extension to be granted, those citing issues around COVID-19 will be automatically and immediately granted an extension.
Reduction in Non-Domestic Northern Ireland Regional Rates:
Northern Ireland Finance Minister, Conor Murphy MLA, in his Budget 2020 announced on Tuesday 31 March 2020 that the Northern Ireland Executive was reducing the Non-Domestic Regional Rate. The regional rate has now been adjusted downward to offset the change in the total rateable value due to Reval 2020. He confirmed he was making a further 12.5% cut and that the effect of this reduction will effectively see an 18% reduction on the 2019/20 figure which will benefit all business ratepayers.
Holiday Accrual: The UK Government has announced that all workers will be allowed to carry over up to 4 weeks of unused leave into the next two leave years. In addition, the Government has also confirmed that they will relax the requirement on businesses to ensure that workers take the statutory amount of leave in any one year.
Universal Credit: Help to claim benefits - Changes have been made to Statutory Sick Pay and how Universal Credit supports self-employed claimant. This is to make sure people in work can take the necessary time off to stay at home if they are suffering from coronavirus or to prevent its spread.
Creative Industries / Sports: Other supports for creative industries / emergency sport funds etc. per NICVA can be found HERE
Commercial Tenants Commercial tenants will be protected from eviction up to 30 June 2020 (which may be extended) for no payment of rent. This is not a rent holiday.
Working Tax Credit (WTC): The basic element of Working Tax Credit (WTC) has been increased by £1,045 to £3,040 from 6 April 2020 until 5 April 2021.
Regional Colleges - Northern Ireland
What is it: The Regional Colleges across Northern Ireland are offering a number of supports to businesses. These include:
1. Skills Focus Programme
In conjunction with DfE, the Regional Colleges are offering 100% funding, up until March 2021, towards the cost of selected non-mandatory training.
A range of accredited courses are available to include courses in hospitality, customer service and leadership & management.
A tailored delivery plan will be created, implemented and delivered and will enable the company, and its employees, to introduce new skills to their workforce.
As part of DfE’s InnovateUs programme, regional colleges can provide up to 60 hours of fully funded support for small businesses to acquire the skills necessary to engage in innovation and development activities. The aim of the programme is to assist businesses in bringing an idea to the market as a new product, service or process and to encourage businesses to raise innovation levels.
3. Innovation Vouchers
Regional Colleges are working with Invest NI as Knowledge Provider Partners as part of the Innovate Voucher Programme. Vouchers of up to £5k are available to SMEs to work with an expert from the college to help the business innovate, develop and grow.
Who is eligible:
• Skills Focus Programme:
To be eligible you must be a NI registered business (does not include social enterprise, charity or community groups) with less than 250 employees who needs to develop staff at Level 2 or above in priority sectors. Tourism and Hospitality is included as a priority sector.
To be eligible you must be a NI registered business (does not include social enterprise, charity or community groups) with less than 50 employees who needs to develop innovation best practice within the business.
• Innovation Vouchers
To be eligible you must be a NI registered SME and have not been in receipt of R&D
grants in the last 5 years.
How to access: Contact your local Regional College Business Support Centre. A Business Engagement Officer will discuss individual business needs.
Eat Out to Help Out Scheme
What is it: The government have introduced a discount scheme to encourage people to eat out at restaurants
What does it cover: A discount of 50%, up to a maximum of £10 per person, including children, for sit-down meals in cafes, restaurants and pubs across the UK (to include NI) from Monday to Wednesday every week for the month of August.
The discount, which does not apply to alcoholic drinks or service charges, can be used an unlimited number of times from Monday to Wednesday.
For what period: 3rd August 2020 to 31 August 2020
How to access: To participate in the scheme, businesses will need to register online with a new website to be made available on 13th July 2020
What businesses can expect: Businesses can submit weekly claims via a new online portal which will become available on 7th August 2020 with government expecting the funds will be the business’s bank account within 5 working days.
For more information: Click Here
Stamp Duty Land Tax
What is it: A temporary increase to the Nil Rate Bank of Residential Stamp Duty Land Tax (Stamp Duty) came into force at on 9 July 2020. This means that there will be no stamp duty payable on the first £500,000 of all property sales
For what period: Applicable from 9 July 2020 – 31 March 2021
For business support. Visit NI Business Info.
For FAQs see here.
The Federation of small businesses also offers a range of advice for Small businesses and the self employed. Click here for more information.