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Small business help during COVID-19
You don't need us to tell you just how difficult this crisis has become for small businesses throughout the UK.
As lockdown gradually lifts, most of the business challenges remain. High streets will get busier, but getting back to the level they need to be at feels like an enormous step.
The government has addressed this crisis with a series of relief measures that are almost unprecedented in scale. Clearly, there is a national appreciation and understanding for how hard it will be for SMEs to weather this storm.
To date, here are the most important relief measures available to help small businesses through the COVID-19 outbreak and its dramatic effects. We are constantly updating this list, so do check back in - or contact us if you know of any we've missed.
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
As you're probably aware, the government is currently offering to pay 80% of employee's wages, plus all National Insurance and pension contributions, if you put staff on furlough. The scheme is easy to access and apply for, and you will receive funds within six days of applying. It's been reported that around 70% of private sector companies have furloughed their staff to date.
From the beginning of August, the government will no longer contribute to National Insurance or pension contributions. In September, the government will only contribute 70% of a furloughed salary, which then decreases to 60% from October. The scheme will officially end at the end of October.
The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme
Another significant support measure is the so-called Business Interruption Loan Scheme.
It's an unprecedented, government-backed fund available to any business struggling to pay its bills, staff or suppliers. An incredible £330 billion has been made available to cover this fund.
Small businesses can get the first six months of their loan interest free. So far, £2.8 billion has been loaned and the approval rate is around 50%. For more information, visit the British Businesss Bank's dedicated loan page.
Sick pay covered
The government will allow small businesses to reclaim any sick pay related to COVID-19.
Eligibility criteria are straightforward, and you can find out more information at the government's dedicated webpage.
Business rates relief
The government has now offered a 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality and leisure business in England. Specific grants will also become available from the government for businesses in those same sectors.
Tax relief from 'Time to Pay' scheme
HMRC has announced that any business in provable financial distress with outstanding tax bills can apply for support in the form of the 'Time to Pay' scheme - which will delay payment of their tax. This is again accessible through the government's COVID-19 business support page.
Time to pull together
In the meantime, at XLN we'll continue to do everything we can to support our customers and the rest of the UK's small business network. It goes without saying that small businesses will play a vital role in holding the country together - and the more we support them, the more they can support us.