The Government has announced a series of financial measures that will provide some support to the pig sector through the Coronavirus crisis.
The headline is an extraordinary sum of £330 billion set aside in loans for businesses, reflecting concerns over the scale of the potential economic disruption ahead. Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the unlimited loans and guarantees would support firms and help them manage cashflows through this period.
The initial £330bn of guarantees is equivalent to 15% of UK GDP – the Chancellor made it clear further funds would be made available if necessary.
“We will do whatever it takes to protect our people and businesses from the effects of this global economic emergency brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic,” Mr Sunak said.
Details of how businesses can apply for the funding, and what conditions will be attached, have not yet been released.
The loans do not cover people who are self-employed, however.
NPA senior policy adviser Ed Barker said: “We await the fine details, but the announcement provides some hope that any businesses that do fall into financial difficulty will have access to loans to help with cashflow problems. But, of course, these are loans, rather than grants, and will have to be paid back at some point.”
The CLA said: “It’s encouraging to see that the Chancellor of Exchequer has pledged to make £350bn available to the economy. This will bring some much-needed and welcome relief for rural businesses. We fully recognise that the global nature of COVID-19 will bring a level of economic distress to rural communities not experienced in generations and we are determined to support our members through it.”
Hospitality and leisure businesses
Producers with farm shops and B&Bs will also have access to more support. Measures include:
£25,000 grants to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from smaller premises, with a rateable value over £15,000 and below £51,000
Giving all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England a 100% business rates holiday for the next 12 months.
There will be grants to small businesses eligible for Small Business Rate Relief from £3,000 to £10,000, delivered by local authorities.
Mortgage lenders will offer a three-month holiday for people in financial difficulty as a result of the virus.
A number of private lenders are making funds available to small businesses impacted by COVID-19, including £2 billion from Lloyds Banking Group and £5 billion from NatWest.
A dedicated helpline has been set up to help businesses and self-employed individuals in financial distress and with outstanding tax liabilities receive support with their tax affairs. Through this, businesses may be able to agree a bespoke Time to Pay arrangement. If you are concerned about being able to pay your tax due to COVID-19, call HMRC’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559.
Sick pay support
Last week, the Government announced a package of measures, including support for employers who face staff absences. Small- and medium-sized businesses and employers will be able to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19.
The eligibility criteria for the scheme will be as follows:
- this refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19
- employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible – the size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020
- employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of COVID-19
- employers should maintain records of staff absences, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note
- the government will work with employers over the coming months to set up the repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible. Existing systems are not designed to facilitate employer refunds for SSP.