Highland businesses urged to apply for support before Covid-19 grant scheme closes
Highland businesses who may be entitled to grant support to help them as they prepare to safely reopen are being encouraged to apply before new 10 July deadline.
The COVID-19 business grant schemes, which was set up by the Scottish Government to help companies stay in business during the coronavirus crisis, have now paid out over £66,000,000 to almost 6500 Highland businesses. These schemes include a small business grant scheme supporting businesses in non-domestically rated properties, a Bed & Breakfast hardship grant scheme and a scheme supporting the newly self-employed. The Highland Council has now processed over 99% of the applications received since the grant schemes opened.
Chair of The Highland Council’s Development and Infrastructure Committee, Cllr Trish Robertson said: “The recent announcements from the Scottish Government regarding easing the lockdown allowing many businesses to reopen over the coming weeks are welcome, however many businesses may have to make adaptations to their premises at a time when they still have little or no income. In many cases these business grants could play a significant role in helping these businesses make the investment required to operate safely once they reopen.
“Despite this number of grants being awarded we do however know that many businesses who might be eligible for one of these schemes have yet to apply. The Scottish Government having recently announced that all the Council managed schemes are to close on Friday 10th July so we are encouraging businesses who have yet to apply to see if they qualify and to get their application in before the deadline if they do.”
Business owners can check the information on the Council’s website to see if they are eligible. Full details on all of the grant schemes and the eligibility criteria can be found here https://www.highland.gov.uk/info/1/business_and_trade/904/support_for_business/2
Trudy Morris, Chief Executive of Caithness Chamber of Commerce said: “With the Scottish Government's recent announcement of indicative timetables for Phase 2 and 3 of the easing of lockdown restrictions, many businesses will be actively looking at the changes they need to make to their premises to allow their staff and customers to safely return.
"We would encourage anyone who may be eligible for support through these funds to apply if they have not done so already. This funding could make a real difference in helping businesses to swiftly and safely reopen as restrictions are lifted."
The FSB’s Highlands & Islands Development Manager, David Richardson, said: “As the largest business organisation in the Highlands, with the most widely dispersed membership, the FSB is well aware of the pressure that many thousands of businesses have been under right across this region. We also know from our own research that local economies in the Highlands & Islands as a whole are more vulnerable to the economic depredations of the virus than elsewhere in Scotland.
“Clearly, restarting the economy will take time and the financial hardship that many are facing now is not going to end on the 15th of July – businesses have already lost vital trading months and visitor economies can’t go from 0 to 60 overnight. Surviving until next spring is the number one priority.
“Businesses eligible to claim but who have not yet done so and who need the money should get their applications in now.”
Mark Tate of Cairngorm Business Partnership added: “Following successful lobbying from the Cairngorms Business Partnership and others these schemes have changed and opened up to many more businesses, such as those who sub-let or share space, since they were launched. We would encourage all businesses who may have previously thought they were not eligible to check again before the 10th July as it may be they now qualify for support."
On Monday the Council launched a Highland Business Guide for shops and businesses to assist them with their plans to safely welcome back customers.
The Guide outlines the steps that businesses and the Council are likely to have to make to ensure the safe re-opening of premises and sites and to act upon legislation, and regulations to protect public health, restrict social gatherings and to maintain physical distancing.
The Guide is available on the Council’s website https://www.highland.gov.uk/downloads/file/22620/supporting_economic_recovery_in_highland_-_a_guide_for_businesses