Posted on: 27/03/2020
At Exemplas, we’ve been providing trusted, expert, advice to SMEs for over 25 years. It’s fair to say that the current situation we find ourselves in has resulted in some of the toughest challenges we’ve encountered. However, through the networks we operate in and the contracts we deliver, our unique view within the business support landscape allows us to continue to provide a wide expanse of support, advice, guidance, information and links that will help business to meet the challenges ahead.
We know better than anyone that in light of the rapidly evolving COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak in the UK, many businesses are struggling to stay afloat, suffering unprecedented financial and stock losses, cancellations and uncertain circumstances. As an SME ourselves, we too understand these difficulties and are here to support stakeholders and our clients to understand and access what’s available to them to navigate their way through.
Our focus at this time is to keep our business support services available and ensure our advisers are accessible for businesses struggling or adapting due to COVID-19. With the Government’s recommendation of remote working, we remain fully operational and continue to deliver our funded business support service contracts: the Hertfordshire Growth Hub, Enterprise Europe Network East of England, Department of International Trade in the East of England and Yorkshire and Humber, as well as our consultancy service Ellenbrooke. The only change is that face-to-face support and events are being conducted virtually.
Although we’ve adapted our working model to accommodate these circumstances, we understand that many businesses are unable to do the same. This is why we’re actively engaging with key stakeholders and the Government to inform and steer the conversation regarding the support businesses need in these uncertain times. We continually review the shape and focus of the contracts we deliver to ensure that the right support is being offered for businesses to help them through these troubling times. We’re staying up-to-date with the latest advice from the Government and their support measures to make sure that we’re fully informed about what support is out there for businesses and what additional support we can give them to help them weather this storm.
We recognise that, during this time, businesses are focusing on sustainability and diversification, in addition to stemming cashflow issues and remaining compliant with the law. There is plenty of support available to help businesses manage these issues and more, especially through Growth Hub’s, Enterprise Europe Network’s Innovate 2 Succeed programme, and the Business Support helpline.
To ensure businesses get the support they need, their first point of contact should be their local Growth Hub, to find out what opportunities and support measures they are eligible for and where they can access and apply for it. The Hertfordshire Growth Hub has a dedicated COVID-19 Business Resource page that collates all related news, Government updates, and funding opportunities for those in the county. For those who aren’t located in Hertfordshire, please contact your local Growth Hub for localised information.
The contact details for the Hertfordshire Growth Hub, Enterprise Europe Network East of England, the Department of International Trade in the East of England as well as Yorkshire and Humber, and Ellenbrooke are included at the end of this article.
The Government has released support packages, including a variety of funding opportunities and substantial tax and rates cuts. This is to relieve the strain of the current situation businesses are finding themselves in; many are forced to lay off staff, temporarily close, and take actions that put them at financial risk. Below is a short summary of some of the measures that were announced. These are outlined in more detail in the Spring Budget 2020 as well as the Chancellor’s speeches on 17th March, 20th March and 26th March.
Government set out plans to enforce closure of businesses and other venues with a list of businesses to close from 21st March 2020. On 23rd March 2020 the Prime Minister provided a list of further businesses and premises to close after his announcement regarding increased social distancing measures. Local Government will be responsible for enforcing regulations requiring those businesses to close. To compensate these businesses, the Government has provided numerous funding opportunities and schemes to help businesses weather the storm. To avoid any fines, prohibition notices, or loss of alcohol licenses, the Government urged these businesses to remain closed until further notice to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The Coronavirus Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), managed by the British Business Bank, is open for applications and supports a wide range of business finance products, including term loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance facilities. It can also provide facilities of up to £5m for smaller businesses across the UK (with an annual turnover of less than £45m), who are experiencing lost or deferred revenues, leading to disruptions to their cashflow. The scheme will be in place for up to six years, with no interest due for the first 12 months.
CBILS will be delivered through a range of over 40 accredited lenders and offer attractive terms for both businesses applying for new facilities and lenders, with the aim of supporting the continued provision of finance to UK businesses experiencing increased costs or disruptions to cashflow during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Questions and queries regarding your specific circumstances must be directed to your lenders or one of the accredited CBILS lenders, and not the British Business Bank.
To find out more about the CBILS: www.british-business-bank.co.uk/CBILS
Self-Employed Income Support Scheme
The Chancellor announced a Self-Employed Income Support Scheme on the 26th March. The Government will pay self-employed people, who have been adversely affected by COVID-19, a taxable grant worth 80% of their average monthly profits over the last three years, up to £2,500 a month. The scheme will be open to those where the majority of their income comes from self-employment and who have profits of less than £50,000. The scheme will be open for an initial three months with people able to make their first claim by the beginning of June. HM Government has a dedicated page with the full details of the support scheme, including eligibility, and a dedicated FAQs page relating to the scheme.
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
The Government will refund up to two weeks of SSP for employees suffering from COVID-19, and will be paid from day one, instead of four. All UK businesses with less than 250 employees will be eligible. Businesses won’t need to apply for the refund. The Government is currently setting up a method of repayment, and details will be uploaded here as soon as they are available.
A dedicated helpline has been set up to help businesses and self-employed individuals in financial distress and with outstanding tax liabilities receive support with their tax affairs. Through this, businesses may be able to agree a bespoke Time to Pay arrangement. The HMRC helpline number is 0800 0159 559.
Increasing business rates
The government is temporarily increasing the business rates retail discount in England to 100% for 2020-21 for properties below £51,000 rateable value. Nearly half of all business properties will not pay a penny of business rates.
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
For the first time in UK history, the government will be helping to pay employees’ salaries through this scheme. All UK businesses, regardless of size or sector, will be able to reclaim 80% of their employees’ salaries up to £2,500 a month, which is above the median income.
Deferring the next quarter of VAT payments
The next quarter of VAT payments are being deferred. This means that no business will pay any until the end of June 2020 and will have until the end of the financial year to repay those bills. The next self-assessment payments will be deferred until January 2021.
Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit
For the next twelve months, the Universal Credit standard allowance and the Working Tax Credit basic element will be increased by £1,000 a year. The minimum income floor for everyone affected by the economic impacts of COVID-19 will be suspended to strengthen the safety net for the self-employed. This means that every self-employed person can now access Universal Credit at a rate equivalent to Statutory Sick Pay for employees.
We urge businesses to only ever access government support through the official channels to avoid any potential scams. The government has created a dedicated page on advice and guidance for employers, employees and businesses. The page specifically dedicated for business support also provides the criteria’s for eligibility and how to access specific schemes and opportunities.
HM Government has also produced a dedicated business support page with all the schemes and funding opportunities listed. The Government also has a page with a complete list of all finance and support for your business, which includes opportunities from a variety of organisations and businesses to help businesses throughout this time. There is also a dedicated page filled with advice for the charity sector.
While the Government has provided support packages to help businesses weather the storm, there are additional resources provided by other organisations and companies. These additional support packages include ongoing services that are still available during this time and that have been adapted for the situation, as well as new schemes and initiatives that were designed to combat the impacts of COVID-19. The below is a list of resources that are available for businesses, providing financial, human resource, skills and training, exporting and trading, innovation and wellbeing resources. We have also included resources that help business with sustainability and diversification, for businesses who find themselves in the position of having to adapt their business model in order to respond to the market challenge.
Sustainability & Diversification
Skills & Training
Emergency COVID-19 Bill News laws were introduced in the Emergency COVID-19 Bill to protect public health, increase NHS capacity, strengthen social care and support the public to take the right action at the right time. The measures are temporary, proportionate to the threat, and will only be used when strictly necessary. The Government stated that they will be in place for as long as is required to respond to the situation. They are focused on five key categories: containing and slowing the virus; easing legislative and regulatory requirements; enhancing capacity and the flexible deployment of staff across essential services; managing the deceased in a dignified way; and supporting the protecting the public to do the right thing and follow public health advice.
Contact our programmes
Hertfordshire Growth Hub
Enterprise Europe Network East of England
Department of International Trade East of England
Department of International Trade Yorkshire and Humber