April 9, 2020 @ 12:21 by Alison Cowie
Newcastle City Council has so far paid out £32.3 million in business support grants to help local traders through the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 2500 businesses have received grant payments worth £10,000 or £25,000 from the council to help protect the local economy during difficult trading conditions caused by COVID-19.
The council’s business support team set up an online service to ensure fast access to grants for funding made available from the Government for businesses who receive small business rates relief and those in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors, including a fast-tracking of funds to 450 businesses whose bank details were held on file.
One of the businesses to benefit from fast-tracked payments is award-winning hairdressers Y Salon, based in the city centre since 1984.
Business owner Angela Lowery said: “The anxiety and the stress and the worry that came from [the COVID-19 outbreak] was unbelievable, but the Government were really quick to act and stepped in, throwing us a lifeline by providing us with a grant. Without it, I believe we probably would have not survived.
“Newcastle City Council were really quick to act by depositing the money straight into our bank account, so again alleviating pressure for me to go online, find the necessary forms to fill in and hope for the best.
“Also providing us with a rate-free year is hugely supportive for my business. This has given me the freedom to work on my business, to be ready to re-open and in a position to be able to hire should people be looking for work.”
Cllr Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle City Council [pictured], said: “The coronavirus isn’t just a health crisis, it’s an economic crisis too. We know that every business in the city is struggling now. That’s why as a council, we’ve acted really quickly to get business support grants directly into bank accounts of small businesses with over £32 million paid out to 2500 businesses so far.
“We’re here to help businesses like Angela’s, a busy thriving business until coronavirus struck, and we want to ensure that all businesses get the help they need now to forge a future and get back to trading.
“If your business hasn’t contacted us yet for business support you may be eligible for, please get in touch. Our business support teams are working tirelessly to get this funding to you, with applications typically taking five to ten working days.
“And we also want to know what more we can do to help you through what is undoubtedly going to be a difficult few weeks and months.
“It’s important that we protect our economy as much as possible, so please don’t struggle, please get in touch as we want to hear from you. And if there is anything else we can do directly, or by raising issues you are facing with government, we’ll do our very best to serve you. So, don’t struggle in silence, get in touch and let’s get through this together.”
Newcastle City Council estimate that 4500 businesses in the city meet the Government’s funding criteria and are urging businesses who haven’t contacted the council to register their details online at www.newcastle.gov.uk/covidbusinesssupport so the council can process their payment quickly.
They are receiving a high volume of applications, but business support teams are verifying and processing payments within five to ten working days. The business support teams are also offering help and advice through an online form.
The webpage also has details of further government schemes and initiatives businesses may be able to access and what support is available. This includes signposting businesses to the national schemes introduced by the Chancellor on March 20, including the British Business Bank loans of up to £5 million, the commitment to cover 80 per cent of retained workers’ salaries to stop job losses and delays to VAT payments.
For those retail, hospitality and leisure businesses who pay business rates, they will also be able to benefit from a 12-month payment holiday this financial year.
The council is working closely with a range of partners, including NE1 and NewcastleGateshead Initiative.