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18 March, 2020
In the face of Brexit uncertainties and the recent Coronavirus outbreak the new Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, was faced with falling economic indicators, the need to boost NHS services and was consequently limited in his options to spend on plans to improve business confidence and fund infrastructure projects.
Interestingly, there were a number of measures that will directly benefit those affected by the current COVID-19 outbreak and these are reported in this update.
The government has already announced that, for one year from 1 April 2020, the business rates retail discount for properties with a rateable value below £51,000 in England will increase from one third to 50% and will be expanded to include cinemas and music venues.
To support small businesses, in response to COVID-19, the retail discount will be increased to 100% and expanded to include hospitality and leisure businesses.
The government previously committed to introducing a £1,000 business rates discount for pubs with a rateable value below £100,000 in England for one year from 1 April 2020. To further support pubs, in response to COVID-19, the discount will be increased to £5,000.
Affected businesses should receive amended rates bills for 2020-21 from their local authority. Regional variations may apply.
The government is to provide a £3,000 grant to businesses that presently qualify for the Small Business Rates Relief or Rural Rate Relief.Businesses that think they may be eligible should contact their local authority.
The government will launch a new, temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, to support businesses to access bank lending and overdrafts.
Government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan (subject to a per lender cap on claims) to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to SMEs. The government will not charge businesses or banks for this guarantee, and the Scheme will support loans of up to £1.2 million in value. This new guarantee will initially support up to £1 billion of lending on top of current support offered through the British Business Bank.
HMRC are expanding the number of operatives that manage calls from taxpayers that are unable to pay their taxes on time. If readers are concerned about meeting tax payments call the dedicated help-line 0800 0159 559.
SSP will be temporarily payable from day 1 instead of day 4 for affected individuals and will include those infected and those self-isolating, who are not infected. Those who cannot claim SSP, the self-employed for example, are to be provided with easier access to Universal Credits and the Contributory Employment and Support Allowance.
Government is providing a new £500m Hardship Fund so local authorities can support economically vulnerable people and households. Most of this funding will probably support the extension of council tax relief.
Although not a budget announcement, a number of banks and other mortgage lenders are offering a moratorium on mortgage repayments to those directly affected by the Coronavirus. This is welcome support for individuals whose income may be diminished by absence from work. At least one High Street lender has committed to a three-month moratorium. Banks are also considering increasing credit card limits and cash withdrawal limits.
As yet, there is little detail available on these measures to try to ease the pain of the Coronavirus outbreak, so keep an eye out in the media for details of how to apply for the various benefits.
Blog post by: Ian Marlow