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

Dear business owner,

Our entire business community is facing huge and unprecedented challenges as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic.

As Chief Executive, I have put the entire resource of our Economic Development team at your disposal during this time.

We are providing businesses across Mid and East Antrim with the full assistance, support and resources of our Economic Development team.

Our staff are on-hand to help you in any way they can - be it advice on accessing grants, staffing queries, wages, Government support packages, and the very latest, up to date information.

Council is in daily contact with our key stakeholders, including Invest NI and the relevant Government Departments and we are making representations to them for all the support required for our businesses in Mid and East Antrim.

In parallel, we continue to reach out to as many business owners as we can and strongly encourage you to get in touch with us.

Our businesses are resilient, innovative and determined, and as a Council, we will continue to do everything we can to assist you throughout this crisis.

Anne Donaghy

Chief Executive

Gregg McKeen

Chair of Borough Growth



Are you an organisation that could benefit from funding opportunities? 

Council has secured free access for a limited time to a new online funding portal GRANTfinder

Simply register at GRANTfinder to avail of the free service until 17 October 2020. 

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
  • Business loans and lending facilities
  • Support for the Self Employed

Visit the NIBusinessInfo website for more information.

A new ‘support finder’ tool has been launched to help businesses and self-employed to quickly and easily determine what financial support is available to them during the coronavirus pandemic visit:

Support Finder Tool

Supporting Workers

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

For all UK employers, does not apply to self-employed.

Covers 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 now until October.

Update from 29 May re Job Retention Scheme

  • From 1 July 2020, businesses will be given the flexibility to bring furloughed employees back part time. Individual firms will decide the hours and shift patterns their employees will work on their return.
  • June and July: The government will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500 as well as employer National Insurance (ER NICS) and pension contributions. Employers are not required to pay anything.
  • August: The government will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions – for the average claim, this represents 5% of the gross employment costs the employer would have incurred had the employee not been furloughed.
  • September: The government will pay 70% of wages up to a cap of £2,187.50. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions and 10% of wages to make up 80% total up to a cap of £2,500. For the average claim, this represents 14% of the gross employment costs the employer would have incurred had the employee not been furloughed.
  • October: The government will pay 60% of wages up to a cap of £1,875. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions and 20% of wages to make up 80% total up to a cap of £2,500. For the average claim, this represents 23% of the gross employment costs the employer would have incurred had the employee not been furloughed.

To enable the introduction of part time furloughing, and support those already furloughed back to work, claims from July onwards will be restricted to employers currently using the scheme and previously furloughed employees. The scheme will close to new entrants on 30 June, with the last three-week furloughs before that point commencing on 10 June.

You may also find this recorded webinar on HMRC's YouTube channel helpful. 

Additional information is now available on the NIBusinessInfo website

Make a claim under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

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.

Scheme will open 26 May

For more information click here


Hardship Fund

The scheme is only open to those who employ 1-9 people through PAYE (excluding the business owner), and have not been able to access the business rates linked grants.

  • Companies – just one person on the books - not eligible.  More than one person on the books, e.g. another Director who is registered for PAYE - eligible.
  • Self-employed/sole trader – if this person employs (ie PAYE) at least one employee = eligible, otherwise ineligible

Aimed at microbusinesses which have not been able to avail of the existing support schemes and which require financial support due to the impact of COVID-19. It is estimated around 8,000 businesses across Northern Ireland will be eligible.

Applications can only be made online. Gather the correct information.  If you are eligible, you will need the following information to complete the online application form:

  • Your business name.
  • Your contact name and number.
  • Your business address and postcode.
  • Your employer PAYE reference number, also known as an Employer Reference Number or ERN.
  • The number of staff on your PAYE payroll as of 29 February 2020 and evidence to support this.
  • Your LPS Ratepayer ID and Occupancy ID if you pay business rates.
  • Your VAT number if you are VAT registered.
  • Your business bank account number and sort code (only provide bank account details where a BACS payment can be accepted).
  • Details of any de minimis funding your company or any company within the Group (if applicable) has received in the current or previous two fiscal (accounting) years.

You will also need to provide electronically:

  • A form of photographic ID as your proof of identity, such as a scanned copy of a valid passport or a current driving licence.
  • A scanned copy of a bank statement dated within the last three months for an account used by your business that clearly shows your address.
  • A scanned copy of your PAYE Real Time Information (RTI) return for the period ended 29 February 2020.

In order to ensure that the £40 million budget is not exceeded, the final amounts awarded will depend on the number of successful applications.

The level of Hardship Fund grant will be up to £10,000 for businesses which pay business rates on-premises and up to £5,000 for those that do not pay business rates. Businesses within each category will receive the same amount.

Only one grant will be paid to each eligible business, irrespective of how many properties the business occupies.

The online application process will take approximately one hour to complete. You can save your application and return to it at any time before the closing date.  An online eligibility checker will be available week commencing 18 May 2020.

Visit NIBusInfo website for more information.

NI Micro-business Hardship Fund Guidance and FAQs

Emergency support for Aquaculture

The support given will be in the form of a grant payment, covering the three month period from 1 March to 31 May 2020, and will be based on the income lost from sales of aquaculture products due to COVID-19. Average monthly sales over the past three years for each business will be used as the baseline.

Visit NIBusInfo website for more information.

Business Rate Relief

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

In addition, the sectors hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic will pay no rates for the full financial year up until 31 March 2021. Those sectors are:

  • hospitality, tourism and leisure
  • retail (excluding certain supermarkets and off-licences)
  • childcare
  • Belfast City Airport, Belfast International Airport and the City of Derry Airport 

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.

For more information on the rates reduction visit the NIBusinessInfo website.  

Loan Funding

Bounce Back Loan scheme

100% government-backed loan scheme for small business Businesses will be able to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000, loans will be interest-free for the first 12 months, and businesses can apply online through a short and simple form. Firms will be able to access these loans through a network of accredited lenders.

The government will work with lenders to ensure loans delivered through this scheme are advanced as quickly as possible and agree a low standardised level of interest for the remaining period of the loan.

Who cannot apply

The following businesses are not eligible to apply:

  • banks, insurers and reinsurers (but not insurance brokers)
  • public-sector bodies
  • further-education establishments, if they are grant-funded
  • state-funded primary and secondary schools

If you’re already claiming funding

You cannot apply if you’re already claiming under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS).

Live from 4 May. See more on the NIBusinessInfo website  

Coronavirus Small/Medium Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)

The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80 per cent on each loan.  The government will not charge businesses or banks for this guarantee, and the Scheme will support loans of up to £5 million in value.

Changes to this scheme from 3 April include:

The scheme has been extended so that all viable small businesses affected by COVID-19, and not just those unable to secure regular commercial financing, will now be eligible should they need finance to keep operating during this difficult time.

The government is also stopping lenders from requesting personal guarantees for loans under £250,000 and making operational changes to speed up lending approvals.  TAKE OUT

The government will continue to cover the first twelve months of interest and fees.

Visit NIBusinessInfo for more information

New lenders approved on 27 April

Current accredited lenders and partners

Call the Business Support team on

T: 0800 181 4422   

Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS)

This loan will provide a government guarantee of 80% to enable banks to make loans of up to £25 million to firms with an annual turnover of over £45 million.

There is also an option of a loan up to £200 million criteria apply (available from w/c 25 May).

Details available here.

Call the Business Support team on

T: 0800 181 4422   

CLBILS Factsheet

For more information visit the NIBusinessInfo website.

Lending Facility for Larger Firms

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.

New update as of 6 April 2020

For more information visit the NIBusinessInfo website.

Trade Credit Insurance guarantee

Trade Credit Insurance provides cover to business to business transactions, particularly in non-service sectors, such as manufacturing and construction. It insures suppliers selling goods against the company they are selling to defaulting on payment, giving businesses the confidence to trade with one another.

Due to Coronavirus and businesses struggling to pay bills, they risk having credit insurance withdrawn, or premiums increasing to unaffordable levels. To prevent this from happening, the government will temporarily guarantee business-to-business transactions currently supported by Trade Credit Insurance, ensuring the majority of insurance coverage will be maintained across the market.

This will support supply chains and help businesses to trade with confidence as they can trust that they will be protected if a customer defaults on payment.

How will the guarantee work?

The guarantee will be delivered through a temporary reinsurance agreement with insurers currently operating in the market. The government will work with businesses and the industry on the full details of the scheme to ensure firms are supported and risk is appropriately shared between the government and insurers.

The guarantees will cover trading by domestic firms and exporting firms and the intent is for agreements to be in place with insurers by end of May 2020.

The guarantee will be temporary and targeted to cover CV-19 economic challenges, and will provisionally last until the end of the year. It will be followed by a review of the TCI market to ensure it can continue to support businesses in future.

Further details will be announced in due course on the NIBusinessINfo website.

Tax Liabilities

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.

For more information visit the NIBusinessInfo website.  

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.

For more information visit the NIBusinessInfo website.  

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.

For more information on the Tax Helpline to support businesses affected by Covid-19 visit the Gov.UK website.

Delay in water and sewerage bills

Delay in water and sewerage bills

Water and sewerage bills for business and non-domestic customers will be held back until July.  A planned annual increase in the non-domestic water and sewerage tariff will also be deferred and reviewed in the autumn.


Universal Credit Allowance

All claiming Universal credit including the Self Employed

Eligibility Refer to the Understanding Universal Credit website.

How to claim
New claimants do not attend the jobcentre, you can claim online via NIDirect's Universal Credit section.

Employees can read guidance on the Gov.UK website's Guidance to Employers and Businesses section.

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.

For more information visit the NIBusinessInfo website.


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.

Individuals can continue to apply for the first SEISS grant until 13 July. Under the first grant, eligible individuals can claim a taxable grant worth 80% of their average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering three months’ worth of profits, and capped at £7,500 in total. Those eligible have the money paid into their bank account within six working days of completing a claim.

Applications for the second grant will open in August. Individuals will be able to claim a second taxable grant worth 70% of their average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering three months’ worth of profits, and capped at £6,570 in total.

The eligibility criteria are the same for both grants, and individuals will need to confirm that their business has been adversely affected by coronavirus. An individual does not need to have claimed the first grant to receive the second grant: for example, they may only have been adversely affected by COVID-19 in this later phase. Further guidance on the second grant will be published on Friday 12 June.

When can I access it?

Get ready to make a claim.

Guidance - Claim a grant through the coronavirus (COVID-19) Self-employment Income Support Scheme

Guidance - How HMRC works out total income and trading profits for the Self-employment Income Support Scheme

Other support

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 on the Gov.UK website.

You must apply for the extension. 

For more information visit the Gov.UK website.

Tourism Sector Advice

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

T: 028 9592 5313, lines open Monday to Sunday 9am - 5pm.  

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

Fishing industry support

A new £1.5 million support package for Northern Ireland’s fishing industry has been announced by the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).  The assistance will be for three months with a maximum amount of total funding per ‘undertaking’ capped at around £104,000.

It will be delivered via monthly payments varying with vessel size.

For more information visit the NIBusinessInfo website.

DAERA will inform vessel owners about how to apply for the scheme and provide further details including appeals. It is anticipated that the first payments would be made early in May 2020.

DAERA is aware that the EU intends to further amend the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund to give additional support to the fisheries and aquaculture sectors in response to COVID-19. TAKE OUT

Coronavirus: COVID-19 Charities Fund

£15.5 million COVID-19 Charities Fund, aimed at helping local charities during the coronavirus pandemic, open on Monday 15 June 2020, deadline 10 July.

The fund will support groups which:

  • have lost income due to the impact of lockdown and
  • are unable to cover unavoidable costs until 30 September 2020

It will provide up to £75,000 of grant awards for eligible organisations and will be administered on behalf of the Department for Communities by The National Lottery Community Fund. The amount of funding required to cover immediate costs and prevent short term closure will vary for each organisation.

Click here to find out eligibility

For more information visit the NIBusinessInfo website


The Future Fund scheme


The Future Fund scheme will issue loans to UK-based companies ranging from £125,000 to £5 million, subject to at least equal match funding from private investors.

These convertible loans may be a suitable option for businesses that rely on equity investment and are unable to access the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.

The Future Fund is now open,

For more information visit the NIBusinessInfo website.

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.

For more information visit the Facebook website