PRODUCED IN PARTNERSHIP WITH UK GOVERNMENT 

By Grahame Anderson

Sangeeta Chopra is looking forward to keeping her dream alive thanks to a government grant as lockdown restrictions are slowly eased.

Like thousands of business owners across the UK the 37-year-old mum of two boys, found her future in the balance because of the coronavirus pandemic. Little more than a year into the successful launch of ‘Namaste’, ‘A Taste Of India’, this visionary businesswoman had to find other ways of utilising her skills as the crisis started to bite.

Having expertly put in place an Indian café and speciality food store in the heart of the popular seaside town of Whitley Bay, this crisis is the last thing she needed.
When the lockdown kicked in Sangeeta quickly adapted her premises to provide special takeaways. She told me:“I wanted to help the NHS somehow and the festival of Durga Ashtami is a very important time in the Hindu calendar.

“I thought that would be a good time to supply NHS front line workers with healthy food to keep them nourished during their busy shifts.” In normal times Sangeeta would serve a set menu offering meals such as daal makhani (lentils), butter chicken, chilli paneer, rajma
(red kidney beans) and chana curry, served with rice or naan. In short – the very best Asian homemade food.

There is a wide range of financial support available to firms of all sizes. For more information visit: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus/business-support

Her caring attitude certainly didn’t go un-noticed in an area set for a thriving future as exciting regeneration takes place, at pace. Sangeeta qualified for Small Business Rate Relief (SBBR) or Rural Rate Relief – meaning she was able to receive a £10K grant from the government, as part of Rishi Sunak’s £330bn package of support for businesses, equivalent to 15 per cent of GDP.

Sangeeta told Asian Sunday: “The grant was paid within a week but I don’t think £10k is enough as I’m not letting customers into my shop and as a result my stock is going out of date.”

“I am a limited company who made a loss in my first year so didn’t get a wage and this year was supposed to be the year when I became firmly established and well known – but because of lockdown the situation has changed. So the grant has served to pay my business loan off which is good.

“If I didn’t have the grant I would be struggling more, but though it’s not enough I do appreciate what I’ve got. I have removed all my tables and chairs for this year at least and will open shortly as an Indian Deli along with specialist Indian food and unique alcoholic drinks. I’m just thankful I can still operate in this pandemic whereas some businesses can’t.”

Check out the simple business support finder to see whether your business is eligible for financial support: https://www.gov.uk/business-coronavirus-support-finder

The government has introduced a range of Business Support Packages. Here is some information that might help.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

  • Businesses across the UK can put employees on a period of temporary leave (furlough) and apply for a government grant to cover 80% of those workers’ usual monthly wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 a month.
  • The scheme is now available until the end of October.
  • The scheme has already protected 7.5 million workers and almost 1 million businesses.

Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS)

  • The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme allows eligible self-employed individuals to claim a taxable grant of 80% of their average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering 3 months, and capped at £7,500 in total. Around 95% of people who receive the majority of their income through self-employment could be eligible.
  • To benefit from SEISS, you need to receive at least half of your income from being self-employed and be earning under £50,000 in profits.
  • You can use HMRC’s eligibility checker to see if you could benefit from the scheme.

Statutory Sick Pay:

The Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme will repay employers the current rate of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) that they pay to current or former employees for periods of sickness starting on or after 13 March 2020.

VAT Deferrals

  • The Government has given the option to defer VAT payments to UK VAT-registered firms, for payments due alongside VAT returns until the end of June. If you’re a UK VAT-registered business and have a VAT payment due between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020, you have the option to either defer the payment until a later date, or pay the VAT due as normal.
  • HMRC will not charge interest or penalties on any amount deferred.

Business rates holiday and eviction protection:

The Government has introduced a business rates holiday for the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors and nurseries, meaning eligible properties in England will pay no business rates this year. This relief is worth almost £10 billion. [Note: business rates are devolved so this applies to England only – the Devolved Administrations have their own schemes and will receive Barnett consequential funding.]

  • Commercial tenants who cannot pay their rent because of coronavirus will be protected from eviction.
  • The Small Business Grant Fund (SBGF) provides businesses with a £10,000 grant per property, for each of their properties which is in receipt of Small Business Rates Relief or Rural Rates Relief. This scheme is only applicable in England.
  • The Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund (RHLGF) provides businesses with grants of up to

£25,000 per property, for each retail, hospitality or leisure property with a rateable value below £51,000. This scheme is only applicable in England.

  • Local authorities are contacting eligible businesses directly to arrange grant payments. If a business believes they are eligible and has not yet heard from their local authority, they should get in touch with them to ask about these payments.
  • On 1 May, the Government also allocated up to an additional £617 million to local authorities to enable them to make discretionary grants to small businesses in their communities, which have been excluded from the SBGF and RHLGF because of the way they interact with the business rates system. This only applies in England.
  • Businesses are encouraged to look out for their local authority’s version of the Discretionary Grants Fund, and to contact their local authority for more information in due course. This only applies in England.

Loans:

  • The Government’s Bounce Back Loans Scheme provides loans of up to £50,000 to small businesses, with an 100% government-backed guarantee for lenders. These loans will be interest free for the first 12 months and businesses can apply online with a short and simple form.
  • The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme is available for loans or other forms of finance of up to £5m.
  • The Government will pay interest and any fees for the first 12 months, and will provide the lender with an 80% guarantee to support the lending.
  • This scheme is available UK-wide.
  • The Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) supports large businesses with an annual turnover of over £45 million per year to apply for up to £25 million of finance.

Future Fund:

The Future Fund will issue convertible loans between £125,000 to £5 million to innovative companies which are facing financing difficulties due to the coronavirus outbreak.

If your business needs to hire now, there is help available to fill your vacancies quickly.

Keep job descriptions as generic as possible to make sure you don’t miss out on great people with transferable skills.

Visit: https://employerhelp.dwp.gov.uk/ to find out more.