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National and Local Support for Businesses Affected by Coronavirus (COVID-19)

1. Grants Update from our Business Rates team

“We have paid out more than £19.5m in grants to businesses since the start of April, but we are still trying to contact a number of businesses who have yet to complete our online grant form. Please check your junk mail as we understand some of our communications may not be going straight to your inbox. If you still haven’t applied for a grant and think you may be eligible, please contact us straight away. We are finding that some businesses in the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure sectors have more than one business property but have only applied for a grant on one of these, and each property may be entitled to a grant. Also, you can get a grant as well as the expanded retail relief for your business rates. We don’t hold all the necessary information to pay grants directly, so we would urge those businesses to contact us again so that we can try to help at what we know is a difficult time.”

For more information on eligibility and to apply for a grant go to: www.oxford.gov.uk/supportforbusiness

2. New central Government business support measures

The Government has announced a number of new measures or adjustments to those already in place including:

The Coronavirus Bounce Back Loan: This new loan scheme will help small and medium-sized businesses affected by coronavirus. The key details of the new loan are:

• Businesses can borrow between £2,000 and £50,000.
• The Government will guarantee 100% of the loan and there won’t be any fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months.
• Loan terms will be up to 6 years.
• The Government will work with lenders to agree a low rate of interest for the remaining period of the loan.
• The scheme will be delivered through a network of accredited lenders.

The guidance on this scheme is here https://bit.ly/BounceBackGuidance

There’s more detail on accessing all the support that’s currently available for business via https://www.gov.uk/business-coronavirus-support-finder

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme Extended until the end of June

The Government’s furlough scheme will be extended for a further month to the end of June. The scheme, which allows firms of all sizes to furlough employees with the government paying cash grants of 80% of their wages up to a maximum of £2,500, was originally open for three months and backdated from the 1 March to the end of May.

The Government has said it will keep the scheme under review and extend it if necessary.
The latest guidance is at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wages-through-thecoronavirus-job-retention-scheme

3. Lobbying on behalf of Oxford business

Our initial survey of Oxford businesses and ongoing email and telephones exchanges highlighted a number of businesses and business types who’ve not yet been able to access Government business support funding. We promised to lobby Government on these issues and have written to the Business Secretary outlining the issues that have been raised with us. You can read the letter in full on our website.

We are also very keen to understand how the current situation is affecting your business.

For most businesses this is a really challenging time, though some sectors are experiencing significant growth. We want to hear your views which can help shape Government responses, and how we develop our economic recovery plan.

We are working with Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP) to gather this important business intelligence. If you are able to, please share your views here or by contacting economicdevelopment@oxford.gov.uk if you prefer.

Over the weekend, the Government announced a new discretionary fund, available to all local authorities: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/top-up-to-local-business-grantfunds-scheme

• The fund is aimed at small businesses that are out of scope of existing business support grants but with high ongoing fixed building-related costs, such as rent payments.

• Local authorities are asked 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. But local authorities may choose to make payments to other businesses based on local economic need.

• Businesses must demonstrate that they have seen a significant drop of income due to Coronavirus restriction measures and that they were trading on or before the 11th March.

• Businesses already in receipt of the Small Business Grant, a Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant or Self-employed Income Support Scheme payment are not eligible.

• There is £617 million in total available to local authorities. The amount for each local authority will be confirmed this week, along with guidance documents. The figure for Oxford City Council is likely to be just over £1m in total. More detail will follow.

4. Resources available

Oxford City Council continues to work with local partner organisations to support businesses during the coronavirus crisis. Amongst the latest initiatives are:

• OxLEP is working with Adviza, the National Careers Service provider for Oxfordshire, to create the Oxfordshire Redeployment Service for all Oxfordshire businesses and employers having to make changes to their workforce as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. It will match those recently made redundant with new work in sectors experiencing a surge in employment demand such as food retail, social care, logistics and distribution. For more details visit https://www.oxfordshirelep.com/our-support-and-events

• OxLEP is also offering a range of support programmes to help the business community during and after the coronavirus pandemic. Details are at https://www.oxfordshirelep.com/our-support-and-events

• FSB webinars https://www.fsb.org.uk/campaign/covid19.html?anchor=free-webinars-from-fsb-first-voice

• B4 Live sessions https://www.b4-business.com/b4live/

• Oxfordshire Mind is a charity which supports mental health at work through education, and collaborative events, and by providing practical tools, including Workplace Training. New material has been created, specifically to help ease anxieties around Covid-19 and around working from home. All material is delivered interactively via Webinar and by an experienced mental health trainer. For more information visit https://www.oxfordshiremind.org.uk/training/