Covid-19 / Coronavirus Information

Supporting Our MEA Businesses

Supporting Businesses

This page sets out the current advice and support available to businesses in Northern Ireland to help them deal with the issues arising as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak.

Should you have any questions or wish to discuss any of the support available, please do not hesitate to contact Council’s Economic Development Team on:


T: 028 2563 3562
T: 028 2563 5036

You can also keep up to date with the latest information on the NIBusinessInfo website

Business Mentor Webinars

View Support Packages

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Support Package


Summary of Additional Support Announced for Businesses

On 20 March, the Chancellor announced new steps to provide support for businesses affected by the coronavirus.

These measures include:

> Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
> Deferral on VAT payments
> Increase in the Universal Credit allowance
> Extension to the interest-free period for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

Click here for more information.  

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme For all UK employers, does not apply to self-employed.

Cover up to 80% of small business staff wages, up to £2,500 per employee.

Support to continue paying part of employees’ salary for those employees that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis. Valid from 1 March 2020 and open for at least three months.

Additional information is now available at:


(See box below if you do not qualify)

The scheme will provide a grant to self-employed individuals or partnerships, worth 80% of their profits up to a cap of £2,500 per month.

HMRC will use the average profits from tax returns in 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 to calculate the size of the grant. The scheme will be open to those where the majority of their income comes from self-employment and who have profits of less than £50,000. The scheme will be open for an initial three months with people able to make their first claim by the beginning of June.

Am I eligible?

  • Be self-employed or a member of partnership;
  • Have lost trading/partnership trading profits due to COVID-19;
  • File a tax return for 2018-19 as self-employed or a member of a trading partnership. Those who have not yet filed for 2018-19 will have an additional 4 weeks from this announcement to do so;
  • Have traded in 2019-20; be currently trading at the point of application (or would be except for COVID 19) and intend to continue to trade in the tax year 2020 to 2021
  • Have trading profits of less than £50,000 and more than half of your total income come from self-employment This can be with reference to at least one of the following conditions:
    • Your trading profits and total income in 2018/19
    • Your average trading profits and total income across up to the three years between 2016-17, 2017-18, and 2018-19.

How do I access it?

HMRC will use existing information to check potential eligibility and invite applications once the scheme is operational. HMRC will then pay the grant directly to eligible claimants’ bank account. HMRC is urgently working to deliver the scheme; grants are expected to start to be paid out by beginning of June 2020. For eligible individuals who have not submitted their returns for 2018-19, they will have 4 weeks’ notice from the date of the announcement to file their returns and therefore become eligible for this scheme.

When can I access it?

HMRC is urgently working to deliver the scheme; grants are expected to start to be paid by the beginning of June 2020.

NOTE: If you have not submitted your Income Tax Self-Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018-19, or any other earlier year, you must do this by 23 April 2020 in order to be eligible.


Support measures: those that missed out (SEISS)

Employed and Self-employed 

Those who are employed but also run their own business for extra income will not receive any support from the SEISS if their self-employment income is less than their other job. As a result, monthly earnings may be slashed to less than 50% of normal income.

Directors on a salary and dividend model

Individuals who pay themselves salary and dividends through their own company may receive minimal support. As noted below, a proportion of these individuals salaries may be covered under the CJRS if they are operating PAYE schemes. However often the salary levels involved are minimal as the majority of their income is via dividends, which there is no support for. Unfortunately, Treasury officials note that it is impossible to know whether the dividends came from the fruits of their work or from passive investments.

Short-term freelance contractors

Individuals who work as short-term freelance contracts which were paid through a PAYE scheme, but now have no future work. They are, in effect, unemployed and will need to claim benefit.

Self-employed individuals who earn more than £50,000 a year will not be eligible to claim from the SEISS and therefore receive no salary support over the period.

Self-employed individuals who began trading on or after 5 April 2019 Self-employed individuals will not be eligible for the SIESS unless they after submitted a tax return for the 2018/19 tax return, which seems to leave a black hole for anyone who became self-employed within the last year. 

Business Support Grant Schemes

The Northern Ireland Executive has announced two grants will be available to local businesses impacted by the coronavirus.  

£10,000 Grant

For businesses with a net asset value up to £15,000 and who qualify for Small Business Rates Relief. Automatic payments will be made to those eligible businesses whose bank account details are held for the purposes of paying rates by Direct Debit, if you have been advised that you are eligible for this grant and your bank account details are required.

Note: Only businesses who can claim SBRR are eligible for the £10k grant, details available at;

The online portal is now live:

Small Business Grant Detail Form

£25,000 Grant

A grant of £25,000 will be provided to companies in the retail, tourism and hospitality sectors with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000. This should assist 4,000 business.

Click here for more details on the grant.  

Rate Relief

Delay in rate Bills
Rate bills for 2020-21 will not be issued until June 2020. Bills can be paid monthly instalments June 2020-March 2021. Monthly Direct Debit payment plans will be updated.

Rate holiday for Businesses
Three-month rates holiday for all business ratepayers, excluding public sector and utilities, shown as a 25% discount on the annual rate bill.

Small Business Rate Relief
The rates of relief and thresholds for eligibility have not changed.

Rural ATM rates relief

The rural ATM scheme has been restored which will help to sustain cash flow in isolated rural areas.

Additional Rates Support

The Northern Ireland Executive's 2020-21 Budget has been published and includes several rates measures.

Rates reduction

The Regional Rate has been adjusted downward to offset the change in the total rateable value due to Reval2020. A further 12.5 per cent cut has now been made in the Budget.

This will effectively see an 18 per cent reduction on the 2019-20 figure. This is intended to benefit all business ratepayers and help with the economic recovery needed on the other side of the coronavirus pandemic.  

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme for Small Businesses

A new temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, aims to support primarily small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) to access bank lending and overdrafts.

The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80 per cent on each loan (subject to a per-lender cap on claims) to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to SMEs. The government will not charge businesses or banks for this guarantee, and the Scheme will support loans of up to £5 million in value.

Businesses can access the first 12 months of that finance interest- free, as the government will cover the first 12 months of interest payments.

Click here for more information.  

Lending Facility

Applicable to Larger Firms

Available from week commencing Monday 23 March

The Bank of England will buy short-term debt from larger companies which will support your company if it has been affected by a short-term funding squeeze and allow you to finance your short-term liabilities, support corporate finance markets overall and ease the supply of credit to all firms.

Coronavirus: Deferred VAT payments

The government will be automatically deferring business payments for Valued Added Tax (VAT).

The deferral will apply from 20 March 2020 until 30 June 2020.

Click here for more information.  

Coronavirus: Deferred Income Tax Payments

Income Tax payments due July 2020 deferred to Jan 2021

This is an automatic offer with no applications required. No penalties or interest for late payment will be charged.

Click here for more information.  

HMRC “Time to Pay” Support


Assistance for the firms and individuals

T: 0800 015 9559

Monday-Friday, 8am- 8pm
Saturday 8am - 4pm

Firms  and  individuals  who  are  in  temporary  financial  distress as a result of Covid-19 and have outstanding tax liabilities may apply to HMRC to defer tax payments:

Agree to defer tax payments through HMRC’s Time To Pay service.

These  arrangements  are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances 

HMRC has also scaled up their “Time to Pay offer” and have established a dedicated Covid-19 helpline.

It is advisable to contact  HMRC  if you have already missed any tax payments.

Coronavirus: Support for Paying Sick Pay to Employees The government is bringing forward legislation to allow small and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19.

Click here for more information. 

Universal Credit Allowance

All claiming Universal credit including the Self Employed

Universal Credit and Tax Credits will be increased by £20 a week for one year from 6 April

Eligibility Refer to:

How to claim
New  claimants  do not  attend  the  jobcentre, you can claim online:

You can obtain support for your rental costs via the universal credits. Furthermore, from April, Local Housing Allowance rates will pay for at least 30% of market rents in each area. 

This applies to all private renters who are new or existing Universal Credit housing element claimants and to existing Housing Benefit claimants.
3-month extension period to file accounts

From 25 March 2020, businesses will be able to apply for a 3-month extension for filing their accounts.

Companies citing issues around COVID-19 will be automatically and immediately granted an extension. Applications can be made through a fast-tracked online system which will take just 15 minutes to complete.  Read more:

You must apply for the extension. 

Click here for more information

Tourism Sector Advice

Tourism NI  has set up a COVID-19 Business Support Helpline.

T: 028 95925313, lines open Monday to Sunday 9-5.  

Outside of these hours please submit an online query via the 'contact us':

Contact Tourism NI
Lloyd's Banking Group Social Entrepreneurs Programme Support programme to help social entrepreneurs start and scale up social enterprise, community projects and impact-led organisations across the UK. 

Click here for more information.
The Facebook Small Business Grants Programme  Facebook is offering approximately £84 million in cash grants and advertising credits on its ad platform for up to 30,000 eligible small businesses.

Click here for more information.