Cumbria Chamber of Commerce is warning that some businesses could miss out on vital Coronavirus grants because they don’t realise they have to apply for them.
The Government is offering £10,000 grants to any business in premises with a rateable value up to £15,000, and £25,000 grants to businesses in hospitality, leisure or retail with a rateable value of more than £15,000 but less than £51,000.
Chamber Chief Executive Rob Johnston said: “This scheme could potentially save many smaller businesses that have been shut down by the Coronavirus outbreak.
“Our concern is that, when the Government announced the scheme, it said that eligible businesses would be paid these grants automatically without having to apply.
“In practice, many will have to apply through district councils.
“Five of the six districts in Cumbria are asking businesses to apply – only Carlisle is saying they won’t have to.
“The local authorities’ reasoning is that they don’t hold the bank details of every eligible business so they need businesses to apply in order to transfer the money.”
The Chamber’s Coronavirus Toolkit – https://www.cumbriachamber.co.uk/news/27976-coronavirus-what-businesses-need-to-know – has links to the application forms for each Cumbrian district council.
Rob added: “It would be tragic if businesses missed out on these grants because they weren’t aware that they had to fill in a form, which is why we’re raising the issue now.
“Once the application is completed, we hope and expect that local authorities will pay the money quickly – within 10 days.
“We know from our Coronavirus survey, completed by more than 250 businesses, that many are experiencing severe cash-flow problems and are desperate for an injection of capital.
“In fact, we know of some that have ceased trading, or are talking to insolvency practitioners about liquidation. Time is of the essence if we’re to prevent more businesses from going under.”
The Chamber is also lobbying through the British Chambers of Commerce for improvements to the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan scheme, which provides loans of up to £5m, interest-free for the first 12 months.
Rob said: “We know some businesses have had difficulty accessing these loans.
“That’s partly due to the way the scheme has been set up – lenders are required to lend on normal commercial terms if they can and use the scheme only when they cannot.
“There are 40 lenders offering business interruption loans and our online toolkit has details of the lending criteria for all of them. If your business has been turned down by one lender, it might be worth approaching one of the others.”