Covid-19: Stormont releases £178m in new business grants

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Some of the grants will be paid automatically, but others will require an application

Stormont's Department of Finance has released £178m in new business support grants.

Almost 20,000 NI firms are eligible for the support with the money expected to be paid in April.

Legislation will be brought forward this month to allow payments to be processed.

Finance Minister Conor Murphy said the grants will provide a lifeline for businesses.

"This package of support will help businesses and safeguard jobs through the period ahead as we emerge from the current restrictions," he explained.

'Contingency plans'

Some of the payments will be processed automatically, while other grants will require an application process.

Grants breakdown:

  • A £50,000 grant for businesses with a NAV (Net Annual Value) over £51k that are eligible for the 12 months rates holiday. For example: retail, hospitality, tourism, manufacturing, childcare and newspaper producers. Airports, food retail and those availing of schemes offered by other departments are excluded from this grant.
  • A £25,000 payment for manufacturers with an NAV between £15,001 and £51k.
  • A £10,000 grant for businesses that received the £25k Retail, Tourism, Hospitality and Leisure Grant last year and have not been paid LRSS (Localised Restrictions Support Scheme) or CRBSS (Covid Restrictions Business Support Scheme) Part B.
  • £5,000 for businesses that received the £10k Small Business Support Grant and have not been paid LRSS or CRBSS Part B. This includes dry cleaners, butchers and pet shops.

The business grants draw on Covid funding that has to be utilised by the end of the financial year.

"In the absence of further bids from departments, I am now activating my contingency plans to support the economy," Mr Murphy said.

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Many businesses were closed by the Executives restrictions which began on 26 December

"These grants will benefit a mixture of businesses including those not provided with grant funding earlier this year, and businesses which have been allowed to remain open but which have experienced a significant reduction in trade due to the restrictions."

'Safe reopening'

The chief executive of Retail NI said the grant scheme was a "welcome announcement" and the minister had "listened to our concerns".

"The 'lost-footfall' grant scheme will secure hundreds of jobs and ensure these independent retailers can continue to provide food and other important products to local communities," Glyn Roberts said.

"While the £178m grants and rates holiday are all positive, we now need the executive to give a date for non-essential retail, close contact services and hospitality to safely reopen.

"It is vital we get a date."