£617m (5%) more funding for the small business grant scheme: What’s happening?

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Local authorities in England will receive access to £617m more in funding via a new discretionary fund announced by BEIS on the weekend. An additional 5% uplift on the £12.33bn already provided under the business rates schemes. 

The new funding for small businesses is focused on supporting those with fixed property-related costs with local authorities directed to support those small businesses with shared offices, market traders, small charity properties, and B&Bs that pay council tax. 

The funding is potentially good news for start-ups, scale-ups and other small businesses that have opted for lower-cost offices in cities; like WeWorks or other co-working offices. However, it is yet to be confirmed how the £617m will be distributed amongst local authorities as many small businesses will have property-related costs, whilst working from other locations, that they cannot access during the pandemic.

To qualify to receive grants under this discretionary fund, you must be a small business with less than 50 employees and able to demonstrate that the business has been negatively affected by the pandemic. It is presumed that bank statements would need to be provided or disclosure of your business type (hospitality, travel agency, etc). The wording, so far, indicates that local authorities will have the discretion to assess businesses for eligibility and determine whether to provide grant assistance. 

This is demonstrated in the level of grants offered with guidance so far only providing that it will be a maximum grant of £25,000 with local authorities provided with discretion to issue grants of £10,000, as well as sums below this based on local needs. 

BEIS, who announced the additional funding, is due to provide more clear guidance during the week on how this discretionary fund will be distributed across England and how local authorities will process the grant requests by small businesses. 

Look out for updates on the government site under Business Support Grants here: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/financial-support-for-businesses-during-coronavirus-covid-19#business-support-grant-funds

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