SMALL businesses across Reading will soon be able to apply for new discretionary funding to support them through the Covid-19 crisis.
Over the weekend the Government announced a new discretionary fund to accommodate certain small businesses previously outside the scope of the main business grant funds scheme.
At the start of the Covid-19 crisis Reading Borough Council moved swiftly to ensure eligible businesses in Reading were quickly supported, in the form of the distribution of business rate relief and grants. As of Tuesday this week (May 5th) a total of 1,601 businesses have benefitted from £21,890,000 in grant payments to support them at this difficult time. More than £54 million has also been paid out to firms in Reading in the form of business rates relief.
The Council is now working up a process by which small businesses will be able to apply for support from the new pot of discretionary funding. This includes discussions with neighbouring local authorities to try and ensure there is a level of consistency across the area in terms of the criteria which will apply. Details of the application process will be widely publicised when this work is finalised.
This new discretionary fund is aimed at small businesses with less than 50 employees and with ongoing fixed property-related costs who can demonstrate that they have seen a significant drop in their income due to Coronavirus restriction measures. Local authorities have been asked by Government to prioritise businesses in shared spaces, regular market traders, small charity properties that would meet the criteria for Small Business Rates Relief, and bed and breakfasts that pay council tax rather than business rates. The allocation of funding will be at the discretion of local authorities.
Reading Borough Council Leader Jason Brock said:
“The Council moved quickly right at the start of the coronavirus emergency to ensure that grants and business rate relief got to eligible businesses across Reading as fast as possible, helping to support them through this difficult time. Reading Borough Council is among the very best performing in the country in getting that money out of the door at pace, with more than 1,600 local businesses sharing almost £22 million to date.
“Following lobbying from ourselves and others, the Government has begun to address the gap that exists by giving us greater discretion to aid small businesses that did not qualify for the initial phase of grants. The Council is now talking to neighbouring local authorities to try and ensure consistency of our approach with that of others across the wider region. We intend to move quickly again, looking to support the many small businesses who urgently need assistance in what is a hugely challenging period for them.
“The Council will be widely publicising its scheme shortly and I would urge small businesses to look out for details.”