March 19, 2020

How we are supporting small businesses during COVID-19

At the Conservative Budget last week, the Chancellor set out the first stage of our response to tackle Coronavirus with £30 billion of support to the economy, designed to help people and small businesses. But we promised to do whatever it takes to support our economy through this crisis. And we will do whatever it takes.

That’s why this week, the Chancellor has announced an unprecedented package of government-backed loans and guarantees for small businesses. That means more financial support for businesses who need it in challenging times. Any businesses who needs support will be able to get it. Here’s our plan.

Protecting jobs through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

We know that small business owners are deeply worried about Coronavirus – the impact it will have on their jobs, their businesses, and their ability to provide for their families. But we said as part of our manifesto that we would back businesses. And we meant it.

That is why, for the first time in our history – this Government will help pay people’s wages through these difficult times. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will offer grants to employers who promise to retain their staff, covering most of the cost of paying people’s wages. That means more job security for employees of small businesses, and more security for the business of those small business owners who are struggling with the impact of COVID-19.

We're acting now so that, if the worst happens, there is a strong support network and safety net to fall back on. This Government is devoted to helping people through Coronavirus, and we're supporting businesses too. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme protects people's jobs and will help businesses keep their valued staff employed in trying times.

£330 billion available in government-backed loans

We will stand behind businesses small and large – providing a £330 billion package of loans and guarantees worth 15% of our GDP. And if demand is greater than the £330 billion we are making available today, we will go further and provide as much capacity as required to support our small businesses.

That means any good business in financial difficulty who needs access to cash to pay their rent, the salaries of their employees, pay suppliers, or purchase stock, will be able to access a government-backed loan, on attractive terms.

For small and medium-sized businesses, we’re extending the business interruption loan scheme announced in the 2020 budget. From £1.2 million to loans of up to £5 million, with no interest for the first six months. That means an increased supply of credit for businesses who need it.

The Chancellor has also made clear we will provide additional funding if needed:

If demand is greater than the initial £330billion I’m making available today, I will go further and provide as much capacity as required.

I said whatever it takes – and I meant it.

More support for retail, hospitality, and leisure businesses

We will help all businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors – meaning that none of these companies will have to pay business rates for 12 months. That means lower taxes in challenging economic times, giving business owners the support they need.

Last week, we said that any business in this sector with a rateable value of less than £51,000 can have a 100% discount on their business rates. Now, we are going further – so all businesses in these sectors are exempt from business rates for 12 months.

That means every single shop, pub, theatre, music venue, restaurant, and more in the country will get extra support thanks to this Government.

More grants for small businesses

In the Budget last week, we announced that we would be providing £3,000 grants to the 700,000 of our smallest businesses. Now, we are going further. To support their cash flow, this week we have increased those grants to £10,000.

On top of that, we will provide small businesses in the retail, hospitality, and leisure sectors with an additional grant scheme of up to £25,000. Any of these businesses with a rateable value of less than £51,000 can now get access to a government grant.

That means if your business is in an especially challenging sector, you will get the extra support you need from this government. And it means all small businesses who need that extra help, will be able to apply for a grant.

We’re reimbursing Statutory Sick Pay

We know that one of the biggest unexpected costs for many small- and medium-sized businesses in the next few months will be sick pay. So we will support smaller businesses to cope with the extra costs by refunding eligible Statutory Sick Pay costs.

Employers with fewer than 250 employees can receive a two weeks’ sick pay refund per employee who has claimed as a result of COVID-19, or who is self-isolating on Public Health England advice.

Use the Government business helpline for advice

The Government has also launched a business helpline for bespoke support for businesses and the self-employed concerned about paying tax during the coronavirus outbreak.

The helpline is manned by up to 2,000 experienced call handlers at HMRC and will be able to give you and your business practical support for the coming months. For those who are struggling or are unable to pay due to coronavirus, the helpline will discuss your specific circumstances to work out a solution built for you.

The helpline number is 0800 0159 559 - and is an addition to other HMRC phone contact numbers.

The Chancellor’s package of support is unprecedented in its scope and support for small businesses. These policies are a comprehensive, coordinated and coherent response to what is a serious and evolving economic situation. We will continue to do whatever it takes to get through these trying times. And we will continue to support small businesses whenever they need it.

Region Labour's Pension Tax (£) Extra Months to Work
England 11,167 44
East Midlands 6,150 50
Greater London 12,871 45
North East 9,758 38
North West 6,835 47
South East 14,270 40
South West 7,407 45
West Midlands 10,729 41
Northern Ireland 13,718 35
Scotland 10,653 41
Wales 11,691 36
United Kingdom 11,253 43

Commenting, Therese Coffey, Secretary of State for the Department of Work and Pensions, said:

“Corbyn’s Pension Tax will see ten million savers facing a huge bill forcing them to delay their retirement for almost three and a half years.
“This is just one of the ways a Corbyn government would hammer hardworking people on top of his plans to hike up taxes by £2,400 a year, as well as the cost of his plan for unlimited immigration and the chaos of 2020 being dominated by two more referendums – one on Brexit and another on Scottish independence.
“Only Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party can get Brexit done with a deal, get parliament working again and turbocharge our economy to unleash Britain’s potential.”

Read more about how this Pension Tax will impact millions of savers (PDF)