“We’re expecting money to be hitting companies’ accounts by the end of this month,” says Minister for Small Business, Paul Scully MP regarding the various schemes in place for businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Businesses across the UK have been forced to take measures to shut down everyday activity in order to protect public health and the NHS, but the immediate financial impact on people’s jobs and livelihoods has put an increased strain on the Government to provide relief – and answers.
When will the lockdown be lifted?
Small Business Minister Paul Scully MP believes that people staying at home and avoiding non-essential travel is starting to work on flattening the curve, but we should aim to get back to work as quickly as possible once safe to do so. “We’ve been really clear about businesses that should remain closed, where people tend to congregate like pubs and restaurants. (This shouldn’t affect) businesses where you can’t work from home but can socially distance,” he said.
“You know your customers and employees best, and can work to put the right things in place to keep them and their family safe. I can’t give you a time (regarding coming out of lockdown), but can give you the reassurance that we’ll be ready for it and will bounce back as best we can.”
What are options for newly self-employed individuals?
One of the groups most affected by the lockdown and social distancing are the UK’s self-employed workforce. Comprising just over five million people, some 15% of the working population, this group contributes a combined £305bn to the UK economy.
According to one estimate from the Resolution Foundation, even before taking account of a wider economic slowdown, there are 1.7 million self-employed workers “who are likely to face major income losses because they work in the sectors most affected by the current lockdown, or are [self-employed] parents affected by school closures”.
Scully agrees. “People falling through the cracks are those that are self-employed. One of the ways the Chancellor has looked into this is to make sure to give as much support as we can, reverse engineering government systems en masse for millions of people to give them access to grants and various schemes.”
“You still have time if you missed the January deadline,” Scully said. “However, newly self-employed people won’t be able to access this scheme, but we’ve made Universal Credit and Statutory Sick Pay easier to claim in the meantime.”
CBILS: When will small businesses actually receive this funding?
“We’re trying to widen (CBILS) to alternative lenders and P2P lenders so that will open up the market to different type of businesses.”
“If you bank with one of the banks not approved yet, then you’ll need to shop around to find a lender. We’re accrediting more banks and lenders, so if it’s not there right now, it may be in the days to come.”
Business rate relief: What can tenants do?
“Rate relief should come in within days but different local authorities work at different speeds, which we’re checking on a day-to-day basis.”
What about SMEs paying themselves in dividends?
Small businesses paying themselves in dividends currently cannot access some of the coronavirus support schemes. Universal Credit and Statutory Sick Pay are the only options available to this category of SME employees at present. “It’s clearly not as generous or open as other schemes, bur it’s a solution for now.”
Biggest lessons for the Government
“We have a lot of business advice, and I want to make sure it’s consistent across the country. Whether it’s an emergency situation or just a normal situation, businesses should know exactly where to go.”
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