Coronavirus help for small businesses: What support is available?

30 April 2020

Coronavirus has had an unprecedented impact on businesses across the UK’s commercial and economic landscape, with firms of all sizes in every sector affected. Thankfully, the government’s response has been extensive, with a wealth of support available for businesses feeling the pinch.

Here, we take a look at the range of measures introduced to help support small businesses through the coronavirus crisis. Use the links below to find the information you need or read on for the complete guide.

Quick links

What support is available for businesses during the COVID-19 crisis?

The government has brought forward a range of measures to support businesses during the COVID-19 crisis, including employee retention schemes, cash grants and payment deferrals. Here’s a quick overview of all the support available:

  • Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, with loans of up to £5 million for SMEs affected by the crisis
  • Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
  • Statutory Sick Pay relief for SMEs
  • 12-month business rates holiday for retail, hospitality, leisure and nursery businesses in England
  • The option to defer VAT and Self-Assessment payments
  • £10,000 cash grants for SMEs in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief
  • £25,000 cash grants for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property rateable in the value of £15,000 - £51,000
  • Time to Pay Scheme from HMRC

You’ll find more information on these support packages, including how to access them and check your eligibility, below.

What is the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme?

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme allows employers to claim 80% of the usual salaries of furloughed workers, up to £2,500 a month. The temporary scheme is open to all UK employers for three months, and is there for those whose operations and cashflow have been severely disrupted by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Is your business eligible?

If your business meets the following criteria, you should be eligible to receive support through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme:

  • Your business has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak to the point where you can’t feasibly afford to pay staff salaries
  • You created and started a PAYE payroll scheme before 28 February 2020
  • You have a UK bank account

How to access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

You can use the government gateway to access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. The scheme is open now and is available for a three-month period, starting from the date you apply.

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What is the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme?

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme provides SMEs with a package of loan and finance options, including overdrafts, asset finance, invoice finance and loans, worth up to £5 million and repayable over six years. The government will also cover the first 12 months of interest payments and fees, so businesses can benefit from lower initial repayments.

Is your business eligible?

You may be eligible for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme if your business meets the following criteria:

  • Annual turnover of no more than £45 million
  • A viable borrowing proposal
  • Self-certification that the business has been severely affected by COVID-19
  • Fully UK-based business activity

How to access the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

40 accredited lenders have signed up for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, including all major banks. Visit the British Business Bank portal for more information on how to apply for Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.

How to defer VAT payments during the COVID-19 crisis

The government has launched temporary changes to the way in which businesses pay VAT, with hopes that payment deferrals will help SMEs manage their cashflow. As part of the scheme, businesses can defer VAT payments due between 20 March and 30 June 2020, with payment then due on or before 31 March 2021.

You can access the new VAT payments deferral scheme here.

What other grants and support are available for businesses?

As well as the main Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Schemes, the government has released a range of measures to help support businesses – including cash grants and monetary relief.

Here’s a quick look at some of the support packages available:

Statutory Sick Pay relief

SMEs can reclaim SSP paid for employees off work due to COVID-19; the refund will cover two weeks and is available to employers with under 250 members of staff.

Business rates holiday

Businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors can benefit from a business rates holiday for the 2020-21 tax year. This should help businesses to manage cashflow by removing the demand of paying expensive business rates.

Cash grants

A number of cash grants have been made available as part of the Retail and Hospitality Grant Scheme, with grants of up to £25,000 available for eligible businesses. The criteria for acceptance as part of the scheme is as follows:

  • Your business is based in England
  • Your business is in the retail, hospitality or leisure sector
  • Your business has a rateable value under £51,000

For more information on the different grants and support available for businesses during the COVID-19 crisis, visit the government’s official business support page.

Help with business energy bills

Many small businesses may be seeking support with their business energy bills during the COVID-19 crisis. With question marks over when normal business operations can resume, you may have concerns about the billing and payments process.

Here, we answer common questions regarding managing business energy bills during the COVID-19 crisis.

Do I need to let my business energy provider know that my business is closed?

We’d recommend keeping your provider in the loop regarding the current status of your business. That way, you can be sure of accurate billing going forward which is based on actual usage, rather than estimated.

My business is closed – what happens with my energy bills?

You’ll receive your business gas and power bills as normal during the COVID-19 crisis, and for as long as your business remains closed. It’s important to let your provider know the status of your business so that you receive an actual bill for usage, which should see a significant drop in how much you spend on gas and electricity.

Other charges, like standing charge costs, still apply when your business is closed due to COVID-19. Such costs cover the third-party expenses related to your energy supply, and cannot be amended even if your place of work is stood empty.

We’d recommend sending a monthly energy read to your supplier so that you know you’re paying the right amount for energy. Most suppliers have suspended meter reading callouts, so performing the meter read yourself is essential.

Can I get help with my business energy bills?

Your business energy supplier may be able to help if you’re struggling to pay your energy bills during the coronavirus crisis. Most suppliers are working on a case-by-case review basis, with help being offered to customers whose cash flow has been adversely affected by coronavirus in the first instance.

For more of the latest news, articles and features from Gazprom Energy, visit our blog and newsfeed. Alternatively, visit the homepage to find out more about our business energy solutions, or call us on 0161 837 3395.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within this article are those of our third-party content providers alone and do not represent those of Gazprom Energy. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. Gazprom Energy accepts no liability for any errors, omissions or representations.

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