Mr Patsy McGlone (Mid Ulster): To ask the Minister for the Economy what financial measures will be put in place to support businesses and employees affected by the restrictions announced on 14 October. [Priority Written]
Minister for the Economy: The Executive agreed restrictions that came into effect on 16 October 2020, for a period of four weeks, in order to reduce the concerning rise in the transmission of COVID-19. While this will be a difficult time for everyone across Northern Ireland, I am acutely aware of the particular impact the restrictions will have on businesses and employees, not only in the hospitality sector but across the economy.
The Department of Finance’s Localised Restrictions Support Scheme (LRSS) seeks to support those businesses in commercial premises severely restricted in use or now forced to close directly by the new Regulations.
The scheme launched for all council areas on 19 October 2020 and provides up to £1,200 per week to eligible businesses for the duration of the restrictions. Further information and applications can be made at https://www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/content/coronavirus-localised-restrictions-support-scheme .
I recognise that not all businesses who have been effected by the restrictions are able to access support through this scheme. I have therefore introduced the Covid Restrictions Business Support Scheme to provide support to restricted businesses who do not qualify for support through LRSS and businesses in the supply chain of restricted businesses.
Part A of the scheme, which opened on 28 October 2020, is targeted at those businesses required to close or cease trading as a result of the restrictions and are not eligible for the LRSS. Eligible businesses under this part of the scheme will received a flat grant payment of £600 per week, paid in one lump sum. Applications will be processed as soon as possible and first payments will be issued this week.
Examples of businesses that may be eligible for Part A of the scheme include businesses that deliver their product or service on a mobile basis or operate from their home, or their customers’ homes; for example a driving instructor or mobile hairdresser or beautician. Self-employed individuals and sole traders, who may not have been covered by previous schemes are eligible to apply.
Further details and the application portal are available at https://www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/content/covid-restrictions-business-support-scheme .
Part B of the scheme will provide support to businesses who directly provide goods or services to the businesses that have been required to close or cease trading as a result of the 16 October 2020 restrictions and are significantly impacted as a result.
Further details on Part B will be released by the Department as soon as possible.
Businesses can also claim a proportion of salary costs through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. The UK Government has announced an extension to the scheme for November with employees receiving 80% of their salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500. Under the extended scheme, the cost for employers of retaining workers will be reduced compared to October.
The Chancellor has announced further support measures including an expansion to the Job Support Scheme to provide support to businesses across the UK who are required to close as a result of restrictions. Businesses can claim two thirds of their employees’ salaries from 1 November 2020 up to a maximum of £2,083.33 per month.
I have also asked my officials to develop a tourism and hospitality scheme and a scheme for the recently self-employed in order to address gaps in current funding. I will make a further announcement on these schemes in the near future.