We finally received guidance for the new Discretionary Business Grant on Wednesday night. As I outlined last week, this scheme is designed for small and micro businesses that have not been able to access any of the other financial support that the government has made available during lockdown.
Although there is some local discretion to how money can be allocated, the Government has confirmed that grants are “primary and predominantly” aimed at small (fewer than 50 staff) and micro (fewer than 10 staff) businesses that:
- have relatively high ongoing fixed property-related costs
- can demonstrate that they have suffered a significant fall in income due to COVID-19,
- occupy a property (or part of a property) with a Rateable Value or Annual Rent or Annual Mortgage payments below £51,000.
We are also asked to prioritise:
- Small businesses in shared offices or other flexible workspaces,
- Regular market traders with fixed building costs,
- B&B’s that pay Council Tax rather than NDR, and
- Charity properties in receipt of charitable business rate relief which would otherwise have been eligible for Small Business Rate Relief or Rural Rate Relief.
The amount provided by government has been capped at 5% of the funding made available in the last round of small business funding. That will mean we have up to £1,873,000 to distribute through the scheme. It is probable that the scheme will be oversubscribed, so we will open applications for a limited time, likely to be two weeks.
We are now establishing a clear set of eligibility criteria for grants, as well as setting up new and robust application, assessment and validation processes, before we can open up for applications. We have already set up a Project Team to work on the administration of these grants and will publish information on the application process on the coronavirus business page of our website as soon as possible.
I recognise the severity of the situation that small businesses face, and we will seek to do this as quickly as we can, whilst ensuring that our processes are robust and easy for businesses to follow.
We expect to be in a position to be open for applications early in June.