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:

E: amplify@midandeastantrim.gov.uk

T: 028 2563 3345
T: 028 2563 5036

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

Business Mentor Webinars

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

Government Support for your Business

Keep up to date with the latest information here.

Guidance for NI companies can be found here.

Guidance for working safely in different business settings can be found here.

Business Support Allocations

The following schemes will support almost 20,000 businesses (mix of application process and automatic payments likely to be made April 2021), the grants include: 

 A £50,000 grant for large businesses unable to access grant funding during the first lockdown;

The Large NAV Business Grant scheme being delivered by Land & Property Services will provide financial support to businesses occupying large commercial premises with a Net Annual Value (NAV) of over £51,000 and which also qualified for the 12 months rates holiday. 

 “This new Grant Scheme will make available more than £50 million of financial assistance to hundreds of businesses across a wide range of sectors including childcare, retail, manufacturing, hospitality, tourism and leisure.

Further details including eligibility criteria can be found on the nibusinessinfo website

The online portal is open and extended opening date until 14 May.

The following criteria apply to the Large NAV Business Grant Scheme:

Businesses must have occupied commercial premises on 1 March 2021 with a NAV over £51,000.
Business must have been awarded the 12 month rates holiday in 2020-21.
Only one grant will be paid for businesses with multiple premises.
Business in administration or with vacant properties cannot apply.
Airports, food retailers, petrol filling stations and sports clubs are not eligible.
Businesses that received or are entitled to receive the Department for the Economy’s Large Tourism and Hospitality Business Support Scheme are not eligible to apply.

The scheme is designed to support the business which is the main occupier of a property, not the landlord or any business which rents part of the property from the main occupying business. 

 A £25,000 payment to manufacturing businesses unable to access grant funding during the first lockdown; and
Top-up payments of £5,000 and £10,000 for businesses that received grants during the first lockdown but are not eligible for one of the current Executive support schemes.

The Department of Finance will now bring forward the Regulations needed to make these payments and will release further information once the Regulations are made at www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/covid-business-support-grants.

Northern Ireland is to get a further £300m from the UK government to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic

The money can be spent now or carried into the new financial year in April, which the Treasury says shows "unprecedented flexibility". Stormont ministers have been concerned that extra funding they received in December will not all be spent and some may have to be handed back.

Funding allocations have become more complicated during the pandemic.

Normally Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland get a population-based proportion of new spending for England. In July 2020, the government decided to give the devolved institutions money upfront without having to wait for it to be spent in England first.

The UK government initially announced a guarantee of an additional £12.7bn on 24 July which has now been uplifted four times. Northern Ireland has now been allocated a total of £3.3bn in that way.

The further funding was welcomed by Finance Minister Conor Murphy.

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

Employees

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

From 1 July, the level of government support will reduce to 70% up to a maximum of £2,187.50 for hours not worked but the government is keeping the 80% rule so employers will have to top-up the remaining 10% up to £312.50 to receive the support. The government contribution is set to drop again to 60% in August with employers required to make up the remaining 20% to cover staff for unworked hours.

Employers must still pay national insurance and pension contributions and are able to top-up the salary to 100% with their own money but don't have to.

Who can be furloughed?

The furlough scheme is open to any UK organisation with employees, including businesses, charities, recruitment agencies and public authorities, providing they have a UK bank accounts and UK PAYE schemes.

For any furlough claims up until April 30, you need to have been on your employer's PAYE payroll on or before October 30, 2020.

Employees being furloughed from May 1 until the end of September must have been on a PAYE payroll on March 2, 2021.

Workers can be on any type of contract, meaning you could still be furloughed if you are part-time or a contract worker.

It is down to the organisation to arrange the help, rather than the employees but you can ask to be furloughed.

Employers can also bring staff back a few days a week under flexible furlough.

The government support will be scaled back in July when businesses will have to start contributing 10% towards furloughed payments, rising to 20% in August and September when the scheme is due to end.

EVEN though furlough is designed to keep workers employed, unfortunately, it doesn't protect you from being made redundant.

But it doesn't affect your redundancy pay rights if you are let go from your job amid the coronavirus crisis.

Your employer should still carry out a fair redundancy process.

You will be entitled to be consulted on the redundancy lay-off first and to receive a statutory redundancy payment, as long as you've been working somewhere for at least two years.

How much you're entitled to depends on your age and length of service, although this is capped at 20 years. You'll get:

Half a week’s pay for each full year you were under 22,
One week’s pay for each full year you were 22 or older, but under 41,
One and half week’s pay for each full year you were 41 or older.
You won't be entitled to a payout if you've been working for your employer for fewer than two years.

There should be a period of collective consultation as well as time for individual ones if your employer wants to make 20 or more employees redundant within 90 days or each other.

You are also entitled to appeal the decision by claiming unfair dismissal within three months of being let go.

If you're made redundant after your company has gone into administration you can claim redundancy pay via Gov.uk

Find out more here.

Free online training places 

For people whose employment has been disrupted by the pandemic.  

More details of the courses available and how to access them are available here.

Businesses

Covid-19 Self-Isolation Grant

The non-repayable Discretionary Support Self-Isolation Grant assists with short-term living expenses where a person on a low income or any member of their immediate family are diagnosed with Covid-19 or advised to self-isolate in accordance with guidance published by the Public Health Agency. 

The financial support available will vary according to the period of financial need and individual circumstances.

To check out if you are eligible and apply for the Discretionary Support Self-Isolation grant click here or telephone (Freephone 0800 587 2750).
SSP for Small & medium-sized UK based businesses and employers 

Covers up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19. 

Visit here for more information.

Invest Northern Ireland - COVID-19 Energy Efficiency Capital Grant (EECG)

EECG helps businesses recover from COVID-19 and build resilience through green efficiency. It provides grant support for the installation of energy-efficient equipment that offers greater efficiency in the use of energy, providing cost savings and carbon savings.

EECG is open to existing Invest NI customers and businesses eligible to become an Invest NI customers.

Deadline for applications

EECG will be issued to eligible businesses on a first-come-first-served basis. The grant will close to applications, either:

  • when the available budget is fully allocated; or
  • on the closing date of 5pm Monday 13 September 2021, whichever comes first.

What is available?

Businesses can access up to a maximum grant of £80,000 to support 20% of eligible costs to purchase new energy efficiency equipment.

Eligible projects can use EECG to contribute toward the costs of energy efficient technologies such as:

  • LED lighting system including LED luminaries, and lighting controls such as occupancy and daylight sensors.
  • Heating and cooling equipment including high efficiency boilers, intelligent heating controls, heat recovery projects, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment and refrigeration equipment.
  • Replacement drives or motors including variable speed drives (VSD) and high efficiency motors.
  • Process insulation including extruder insulation and pipework insulation.
  • Other technologies such as high efficiency compressors, energy storage, combined heat and power (CHP), building energy management systems (BEMS) and voltage optimisation.

Please note this list is not exhaustive.

The following projects will not be eligible for support:

  • Projects that solely meet compliance or other legislative energy efficiency requirements.
  • Projects that cover on-going software licencing costs.
  • In-house personnel costs associated with the project.
  • Transport related projects, for example, relating to vehicles, charging points, etc.
  • Building fabric projects.
  • Equipment leasing or hire purchase agreements. A company is permitted to use company funds, or other unsecured lending, but we do not permit other finance to be secured on the equipment.
  • Second hand equipment.

Ancillary works or additional infrastructure works. For example, should premises need wiring to accommodate LED lighting, the costs associated with the wiring would not be eligible under this grant scheme. Eligible costs are the capital costs directly associated with the purchase, delivery, installation and commissioning of the equipment.
Projects where indirect energy savings occur as a result of predominately material efficiency improvements.

Eligibility

EECG is open to existing Invest NI customers and businesses eligible to become an Invest NI customer. You are eligible if:

  • Your business operation is based in Northern Ireland.
  • You are an Invest NI customer or can demonstrate you can meet the qualifying criteria of:
  • reaching a turnover of £250,000 per annum within 5 years;
  • achieving at least 25% of those sales outside of Northern Ireland.

Your project:

Demonstrates a simple financial payback (before any grant is applied) between one and six years through energy cost savings achieved on-site.
Has an eligible project spend of £4,000 and £400,000.
Demonstrates at least 10% carbon emissions savings.

You can fully implement your project, including the full installation of equipment, payment of costs in full and submission of your grant claim to Invest NI before 5pm on 18 March 2022.

Check if you are eligible, visit COVID-19 Energy Efficiency Capital Grant Eligibility Check 

£1.2million Covid-19 support scheme for sheep farmers

A Covid-19 support scheme, worth £1.2million, is now available to sheep farmers who were affected by a fall in the global price of wool during the pandemic, applications to the Scheme can now be made on the DAERA website and must be submitted by 12 August 2021.

 Those who are eligible for the Scheme will receive a letter inviting them to apply.

Explanatory information and guidance has also been published on the DAERA website.

Further £1.6million Covid-19 support scheme for pig producers

A new Covid-19 support scheme worth £1.6million, for pig farmers who were affected by the impact of the pandemic on international pigment markets from the spring of last year, has been announced.

Applications to the Scheme can now be made through the DAERA website and must be submitted by 12 August 2021.

Those who are eligible for the Scheme have received a letter inviting them to apply, pig producers can complete the application form available on DAERA Online Services from 28 July 2021

Explanatory information and guidance has also been published on the DAERA website.

£2million Covid-19 support scheme for potato growers

A further Covid-19 support scheme worth up to £2million for farmers growing potatoes for the processing supply chain has been announced, applications forms for the Scheme are now available on the DAERA website and must be submitted by 18 August 2021.

Potato growers who have already expressed an interest in the scheme have received an email inviting them to make a formal application. Other growers who meet the eligibility criteria are also invited to submit an application.

Explanatory information and guidance has also been published on the DAERA website.

Loan Funding

Emergency loans scheme for three million excluded from Government support for Self Employed and Sole Traders

The Small Business Interruption Loan Service allows self-employed and sole traders to pool together financial support from a trusted network. The Small Business Interruption Loan Service (SBILS) has been unveiled by a raft of fintech firms, with the backing of MPs and in association with ExcludedUK – which has been joined by tens of thousands of self-employed and small business owners not eligible for Covid-19 financial help.

The scheme works as a peer-to-peer (P2P) lending platform, which has been provided by P2P lender JustUs, working alongside Covid-response fintech taskforce BBFTA. It comes amid disappointment that Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s summer statement failed to offer an extension of the current emergency loans support for sole traders and self-employed.

The number of UK businesses and sole traders not able to qualify for Government support stands at around three million, such as the newly self-employed, self-employed that earn over £50,000 and directors paid in dividends. The SBILS alternative lending platform is set to help more than 50,000 of the excluded businesses.

Small firms and the self-employed will be able to apply for SBILs by downloading the Moneybrain app from July 10.

If the application review is successful, the SBILS teams will help businesses build a loan request campaign, which they can use to source funding from their network. Once fully funded, money is received within 24 hours.

Borrowers on the platform will not need to make repayments for the first 12 months, with an initial 3% interest rate rolled up for the first year.

The interest rate then increases up to 8%, depending on the loan amount.

Bounce Back Loan scheme

The Bounce Back Loan scheme helps small and medium-sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and up to 25% of their turnover.  The maximum loan available is £50,000. The government guarantees 100% of the loan and there will not be any fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months.  After 12 months, the interest rate will be 2.5% a year.

If you already have a Bounce Back Loan but borrowed less than you were entitled to, from 10 November you can top up your existing loan to your maximum amount.

You must request the top-up by 31 January 2021. Further information here.

Coronavirus Small/Medium Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)

CBILS helps small and medium-sized businesses to access loans and other kinds of finance up to £5 million. The government guarantees 80 per cent of the finance to the lender and pays interest and any fees for the first 12 months.

For more information click here.

The scheme is open for applications until 31 January 2021.   

Recovery Loan Scheme

From 6 April 2021, the Recovery Loan Scheme will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on eligible loans between £25,000 and £10 million. The scheme will be open to all businesses, including those who have already received support under the existing COVID-19 guaranteed loan schemes. 

From 6 April, businesses – ranging from coffee shops and restaurants to hairdressers and gyms – and can access loans varying in size from £25,000, up to a maximum of £10 million. Invoice and asset finance is available from £1,000.

26 lenders have already been accredited from day one of the scheme, with more to come shortly, and the government will provide an 80% guarantee for all loans. Interest rates have been capped at 14.99% and are expected to be much lower than that in the vast majority of cases, and Ministers are urging lenders to ensure they keep rates down to help protect jobs. The Recovery Loan Scheme can be used as an additional loan on top of support received from the emergency schemes – such as the Bounce Back Loan Scheme and Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme – put into place last year.