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

Grant portal opens for business top-up payments – Murphy

Finance Minister, Conor Murphy is encouraging businesses eligible for the £5,000 and £10,000 top-up grant schemes being administered by Land & Property Services to go online and apply.

The top-up payments are for businesses that received either the £10,000 Small Business Support Grant or the £25,000 Retail, Tourism, Hospitality and Leisure Grant last year, but which did not receive any funding during the most recent restrictions.

While most businesses received their top-up payments automatically last month, some businesses need to apply for the top-up grant.  These include businesses that operate from premises where the landlord pays the rates, businesses that have relocated since they were paid the original grant and new businesses which started trading after May last year.

Encouraging businesses to apply, Finance Minister Conor Murphy said: “Over £70 million has so far issued in automatic top-up payments to more than 13,000 businesses. While these businesses remained opened their footfall and trade was impacted by restrictions and so I was keen to ensure they received support.

“From today businesses which did not receive an automatic payment can apply for a top-up grant payment.”

The Minister added: “I have been determined to ensure support reaches as many businesses as possible. Businesses that started trading after the Small Business Support Grant and the Retail, Tourism, Hospitality and Leisure Grant were issued last year will now be able to apply for the top-up grant.

“I would encourage businesses to go online, check the eligibility criteria and to apply if they’re eligible.”

The online portal will close at 23:59 on 28 July 2021.

Further information on the £10,000 top up grant can be found here.

Further information on the £5,000 top up grant can be found here.

Invest NI has introduced a new response scheme to help companies recover from the business challenges caused by COVID-19.

The Productive Investment Capital Grant (PICG) will support businesses to make productivity-focused capital investments to adapt to these challenges.

PICG is open to any businesses operating in manufacturing, construction, information and communication, or professional, scientific and technical activities. Existing Invest NI customers, or businesses that can become an Invest NI customer, can also apply for PICG.

The call for applications is open until 5pm on Thursday 25 February 2021.

What is available?

Businesses can access up to a maximum grant of up to £250,000 to improve productivity by investing in new technology and processes, software and knowledge acquisition, automation or the adoption of digital manufacturing technologies.

The proportion of costs supported will range from 20-50%, up to a maximum of £250,000 grant, depending on the size of company involved (i.e. micro/small, medium or large business).

For more information click here.
£3m fund to help retail micro-businesses move online

The Covid-19 Micro-business E-commerce Grant has been developed by Invest Northern Ireland to help retail micro-businesses grow their business online. It follows on from the success of Invest NI’s Covid-19 Digital Selling Capability Grant.

Micro-sized retailers are those employing fewer than 10 people, with retail premises and which derive the majority of their turnover from retail customers.

Some of the eligible activities covered by the scheme include engaging the services of a supplier to review your current digital marketing capabilities and online sales channels, develop an e-commerce strategy, develop or enhance your e-commerce website or online presence to drive increased sales or to help improve the digital marketing and e-commerce capability of the employees in the business.

Eligible businesses will be able to receive a maximum grant of £5,000 towards up to 80 per cent of eligible costs. 

The call for applications will close at 6pm on Friday 12 March 2021.

£10m support scheme for wet pubs

The Wet Pubs Business Support Scheme (WPBSS) will provide £10.6m to drink-only public houses which were forced to close between July 4 and September 23.

The schemes will use datasets held by Land & Property Services, as well as an additional verification check completed by DfE (including self-declarations relating to the qualifying period of time the business was closed and the submission of bank statements to evidence the relevant trading position). Payments will issue to eligible wet pubs without an additional application process.

Payments will be based on the Net Annual Value (NAV) rating of the business. The payment structure, which is consistent with that of the Local Restrictions Support Scheme (LRSS), is set out below:

Total NAV £15,000 and less:  £800 per week x 12 weeks
Total NAV £15,001 to £51,000:  £1,200 per week x 12 weeks       
Total NAV over £51,000:  £1,600 per week x 12 weeks        

Roll out of the scheme commenced the 11 January 2021. Qualifying Wet Pubs will be identified by my Department from a list of recipients of the Localised Restrictions Support Scheme provided by Land & Property Services.  The Department will be contacting them before the end of January 2021. Businesses will be asked to supply supporting information to ensure all recipients are correctly identified and minimise the risk of fraud and error. Once applications are verified payments will be made as soon as possible thereafter.

Localised Restrictions Support Scheme

The Localised Restrictions Support Scheme (LRSS) is for businesses that are forced to close because of government restrictions that have premises or are a tenant in premises.

Payments range from £800-1,600 for each week a business is closed.

If a business has previously applied, it does not need to re-apply and will automatically get a top-up for the six weeks starting from 26 December in a lump sum payment of between £4,800-£9,600.

Find out more here.

Covid Restrictions Business Support Scheme (CRBSS) and Large Tourism Hospitality Business Support Scheme (LTHBSS)

Economy Minister Diane Dodds has announced the extension of payments under two of the Covid business support schemes. Payments to businesses under the Covid Restrictions Business Support Scheme (CRBSS), Part A and Part B, and the Large Hospitality and Tourism Business Support Scheme (LHTBSS) will continue up until 23 May for those businesses who remain eligible. 

Under the CRBSS scheme, businesses that remain eligible will continue to receive a weekly grant of £600 for Part A and between £300 and £800 for Part B. Eligibility will be dependent on decisions taken by the Executive on the future easing of restrictions. Where necessary, payments will continue up to 23 May.

The Large Tourism and Hospitality Business Support Scheme makes payments based on weekly amounts of between £2,400 and £41,900 depending on an individual business’ NAV. The majority of businesses will continue to receive support up to 23 May.

Top-up payments will automatically be issued to eligible businesses under both schemes in line with ongoing restrictions.

Full details of all business support and advice, and how to apply for support, are available on the nibusinessinfo website at http://www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/coronavirus

Covid Restrictions Business Support Scheme

Covid Restrictions Business Support Scheme was launched on 16 October 2020 to support those businesses directly impacted by the latest Health Protection Regulations. The Covid Restrictions Business Support Scheme is for some not eligible for the LRSS.

The scheme is divided into two; Part A and Part B.

Part A is for businesses forced to close that don't have premises, for example, driving instructors or hairdressers that rent a chair. Eligible applicants are entitled to £600 per week they are closed in a payment that will be made in one lump sum. If a business has previously applied, it does not need to re-apply, payments will be made automatically.

Part B is for businesses that are in the supply chain of those businesses forced to close because of restrictions and have seen a 40% reduction in turnover, for example, a food producer or a wedding photographer.  Grants of between £2,400-4,800 are available depending on the size of the business. Those who don't pay rates can get a grant of £1,800.

Full details on both Part A and Part B of the CRBSS, including an eligibility checker, are available here.

Part A.
Part B.

The scheme is now open for new applicants.
Executive announces £1.175m additional support for travel agency businesses

The Executive has announced a Covid support scheme for travel agents experiencing difficulties as a result of the pandemic.

Funding provided through the Travel Agents Scheme will help vulnerable but viable travel agents, including self-employed homeworkers, with the cost of re-opening or keeping a business operational; with the cost of reconnecting with employees and customers and adapting customer marketing; and the cost of financial planning. 

The Department of Finance brought forward the proposal for the scheme and the scheme will be delivered by The Executive Office.

The scheme includes a flat payment of £10k to travel agency businesses operating from commercial premises or £3.5k payment to self-employed travel agents working from home.

The scheme will be launched on 19 March 2021 and will be open until 26 March 2021.

Links to the scheme will be available next week in advance of the Scheme’s launch on the Executive Office website.

Criteria:

1.  Travel Agents meeting the following criteria will be eligible for the flat payment of £10k; that is, they must:

(a) be operating as a travel agent in Northern Ireland from commercial premises i.e. premises in respect of which non-domestic rates are paid ;

(b) have been operating from 5 March 2020 to 12 March 2021 (both dates inclusive);

(c) intend to continue operating; and

(d)have suffered financial hardship as a travel agent as a result of the pandemic.

2.  Businesses that operate from multiple premises will be able to apply for funding for each of the premises from which they operate. However, this will be subject to subsidy control in line with the subsidy control chapter in the UK- EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

3.  Homeworkers meeting the following criteria will be eligible for the flat payment of £3500.  All eligible applicants must:

(a) be operating from home in Northern Ireland as a self-employed travel agent;

(b) have been operating from 5 March 2020 to 12 March 2021 (both dates inclusive);

(c) intend to continue so operating; and

(d) have suffered financial hardship as a travel agent as a result of the pandemic.

Apprenticeship Recovery package plan -

Return, Retain and Result

Employers are offered £3,700 for every apprentice brought back from furlough - £500 return payment, £2,000 for the employer who retains the apprentice for 4 months following return from furlough and £1,200 when the apprentice completes their qualification.  Also, £3,000 will be available to employers for each new apprenticeship opportunity created 1 April 2020 - 31 March 2021.

The scheme commenced on 1 November 2020. For more information visit here.

The application form is available here.

Employers may also be interested in the new Apprentice Recruitment Incentive which offers up to £3,000 for each new apprenticeship opportunity created – information can be found here.

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 

New support scheme for large tourism and hospitality businesses

The Large Tourism and Hospitality Business Support Scheme (LTHBSS) will provide support to large businesses in these sectors which have been significantly impacted by the Health Protection Regulations put in place by the Executive. The scheme will provide additional financial support to help these businesses meet fixed costs and overheads associated with the survival of their businesses and the protection of jobs.

LTHBSS will be open to businesses that have a total Net Annual Value of £51,001 and above which meet the following criteria:

  • The business is named within the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No.2) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 AND The business is eligible for the Localised Restrictions Support Scheme (LRSS);
  • The business is operating in Northern Ireland and was trading immediately prior to 16 October 2020.

The grant payment paid to businesses should not exceed the maximum levels of State aid permitted under the Covid-19 Temporary State Aid Framework.
Businesses which have failed to comply with a prohibition notice under regulation 7 of The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020(b)) would not be eligible for support under the scheme.

The Department has identified over 250 eligible businesses in Northern Ireland with a total NAV of £51,001 or more. It will follow a tiered payment support structure ensuring that businesses with higher NAV’s receive a higher payment reflecting higher fixed costs The scheme will make a one-off payment based on weekly amounts of between £2,400 and £41,900 depending on an individual business’ NAV.

Eligible businesses will receive a single grant payment based on the relevant weekly amounts - eight weeks of support for the period of restrictions to 11 December 2020 (10 weeks in the case of businesses located in the Derry City and Strabane District Council Area) PLUS six weeks of support the period of restrictions from 26 December 2020 to 6 February 2021.

For example, businesses, where the NAV is £51,001 to £60,000, will receive £2,400 per week. This will increase to £2,900 per week for businesses where the NAV £60,001 to £70,000 and £3,400 per week for businesses where the NAV is £70,001 to £80,000. This pattern continues up to a NAV of £600,000.

From £600,001 onwards the NAV bands are widened to £100,000 with increments of £2,500. For example, £31,900 per week for a business with a NAV of £600,001 to £700,000 and £34,400 per week for a business with a NAV of between £700,001 and £800,000. Finally business, where the NAV is £1,000,001 or greater, will receive a maximum of £41,900 per week.   

The Department will contact eligible businesses to provide an application form (with a unique application number). Once the application form has been fully completed and returned with the required supporting evidence, it will be assessed and a grant payment will issue in March.

£4m scheme to support B&Bs, guest houses and guest accommodation

The Bed and Breakfast, Guest House and Guest Accommodation Scheme –  opens on January 28 – and will support around 900 providers to continue to deliver much-needed tourist accommodation in 2021 and beyond.

The scheme, which will be administered by Tourism NI, will provide a grant to support eligible businesses on a flat per room amount plus a percentage of 2019’s turnover.  The inclusion of turnover gives some recognition to business performance. The maximum grant any one business can receive will be capped at £12,500.

Tourist accommodation providers meeting the following criteria will be eligible for the Bed and Breakfast, Guest House and Guest Accommodation Scheme:

  • the tourism accommodation provider must be compliant with the Tourism (Northern Ireland) Order 1992 and have received certification from Tourism NI;
  • the accommodation was certified by Tourism NI and operational on or before 23 March 2020;
  • the accommodation has an active listing on the Tourism NI consumer website  www.discovernorthernireland.com as at 1 April 2020;
  • the accommodation adheres to the various regulations applicable to tourism accommodation including but not limited to the following – fire safety regulations, liquor licensing laws, package holiday regulation and food hygiene etc;
  • the accommodation is fully tax compliant (registered with HMRC and all relevant tax filing with HMRC are up to date) on the date of application;
  • the tourist accommodation provider was viable prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and has taken all reasonable steps to safeguard the viability of the business.

Support received under previous grant schemes will be considered in calculating the level of grant under this scheme. For example, a business which received the £10k Small Business Support Grant would only be able to access £2,500 under the Tourism NI Scheme. Businesses that received funding as part of the £25k Retail, Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure Scheme will be excluded from the Tourism NI scheme.

Eligible businesses will be able to apply online through the Tourism NI Flexigrant system. The grant will be paid by electronic transfer to the business bank account detailed on the application form. 

Second financial support scheme for taxi-drivers

The second taxi scheme will provide support to drivers covering the 12 month period from 22 March 2020 to 21 March 2021.  

It aims to address two issues:

first, to provide further support to all eligible taxi drivers for this 12 month period, and second, to now provide financial assistance specifically for those drivers who have had partial insurance during this period.

The application process has also been simplified to address the concerns raised by the sector and this time round drivers will be able to directly contact the Department through a dedicated information line for the scheme. Drivers who were unable to work because they were shielding, but still incurred the overhead costs, will also be able to apply for this new scheme. 

The maximum amount of support available will be £3,000, including any payment already made under the first scheme, and will be dependent on the number of days that taxi drivers had insurance in place over the period. It is, in addition, to support for self-employed taxi drivers from other schemes such as the Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS).

Full details about the scheme and how to apply is available here.

The information line for applications is 028 9054 0605. This number is available Mon-Fri 9-00am-5.00pm. 

Second financial support scheme for bus and coach operators

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has opened a further financial assistance scheme for bus and coach operators.

This second scheme will cover the period from 1 October 2020 until 31 March 2021. 

This scheme will provide financial assistance to bus and coach operators for ongoing overhead costs and expenses which they have incurred.

Open from 12 March until the 9 April.  The eligibility criteria and the basis of this scheme remain broadly the same as the original scheme but with some adjustments, in particular, the £100,000 cap on maximum payments per operator has been removed and communication and advice have also been improved for those applying to the scheme.

Full details about the scheme and how to apply is available here.

Queries relating to applications should be directed to buscoachfundingscheme@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk

Once you have submitted the application queries relating to application progress can be directed to 02890 540111 or DfIBusOperatorSchemeUpdate@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk

Payments will be made based on the financial standing requirements of £8,000 for the first bus and £4,450 for each subsequent bus, or the actual loss, whichever is the lower.

Poots announces a further £325K support for the aquaculture sector

Northern Ireland’s aquaculture sector is to receive a further financial support package of up to £325,000 due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Fisheries Minister Edwin Poots MLA has announced.

In addition to the previous allocation of up to £360,000 in May 2020, this further support package brings the total amount of funding provided by the Department for the sector to £685,000.

Funding will be in the form of a grant payment, covering the four-month period from 1 September to 31 December 2020 and will be based on a percentage of the income lost from the sales of aquaculture products due to Covid-19.

This Scheme is similar to the previous one announced in May 2020 and aims to help eligible businesses that have experienced a significant drop in sales as a result of the pandemic. 

It will assist producers of species like mussels, oysters and trout. The Department will inform business owners about the full details of the Scheme and how to apply in due course.

£1.27million Covid-19 support scheme for sheep farmers

Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots MLA has announced a financial support package worth up to £1.27million to sheep farmers who have been impacted by poor wool prices over the past year following the crash in the global market for wool as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

When the scheme opens later this year, eligible farmers will be contacted and asked to complete a simple application form to claim their payments. Further details and explanatory information will be published on the DAERA website at that time.

Travel Agents Coronavirus Financial Assistance Scheme

The Travel Agents Coronavirus Financial Assistance Scheme 2021 provides a financial support grant payment to eligible travel agents (including self-employed travel agents) who were operating during the period 5 March 2020 until 12 March 2021 and intend to continue operating.  

The support offered will be via a one-off payment of £10,000 for travel agents in Northern Ireland operating from commercial premises (travel agents with more than one premises may apply for payment for each premises) and a one-off payment of £3,500 for self-employed travel agents working from home in Northern Ireland. 

The scheme is open to eligible travel agents under the Travel Agents (Coronavirus, Financial Assistance) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2021 which is made under the powers conferred by sections 1(2), 3 and 4 of The Financial Assistance Act (Northern Ireland) 2009.

The scheme is specifically designed to provide financial assistance to travel agents in recognition of the impact of the pandemic on their trade. This is an additional support that is available to eligible travel agents who may have received support from other schemes.

If you think that you are eligible for support from the Travel Agents Financial Assistance Scheme in line with the legislation, you must apply online. Hard copy applications cannot be accepted for this scheme.

The scheme is now open for applications and closes at 5pm on Friday 26 March 2021.

Apply here.

£2m Covid-19 financial support for hatching egg sector

Agriculture Minister Gordon Lyons MLA has announced a financial support package worth up to £2m for poultry farmers producing hatching eggs who were impacted last year by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Minister outlined the £2m poultry support scheme, explaining that: “Minister Poots met with representatives of poultry farmers producing parent stock and hatching eggs for Moy Park Ltd, and recognised the financial impact that falling demand for hatching eggs, particularly in international markets and interdependencies within the supply chain, had on the local industry. To offset the losses incurred by these farmers during the time it has taken for markets to recover, there is up to £2m of financial support from the Covid-19 fund.

The Minister went on to say: “This support will address the financial impact of depleting laying flocks earlier than normal, and cash flow consequences of longer intercrop periods for both rearing and laying farms.”

When the scheme opens later this month, eligible farmers will be contacted and asked to complete a simple application form to claim their payments. Further details and explanatory information will be published on the DAERA website at that time.

Over 11,300 farmers and growers have already received almost £19m to offset the losses incurred as a result of the pandemic’s impact on the local agri-food sector in 2020.

Minister Poots announces the opening of £4m Covid-19 Support Scheme for Pig and Poultry Producers

Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots MLA has announced the opening of the £4million Covid-19 Support Scheme for eligible pig and poultry producers from Monday 15 March.

These grants were previously announced but are now only opening.

Eligible farm businesses in the pig and poultry sectors will receive a letter inviting them to apply for the support package, with instructions on how to access the application form and receive help to complete it. They must complete the application form available on DAERA Online Services from Monday 15 March to Wednesday 24 March 2021. Explanatory information and guidance will also be published on the DAERA website from Monday.

Further information on the scheme can be found on the DAERA website from Monday 15 March.


Eligible pig and poultry farm businesses can access their application form from Monday 15 March through DAERA Online Services.

A letter will issue to every eligible farm business in the pig and poultry sector in the week commencing 15 March 2021. Only businesses which are considered eligible will have the option to complete this application when they log-on.

Eligible pig producers must have supplied pigs to Cranswick Country Foods Ltd between 4 September and 7 November 2020.

Eligible poultry producers must have produced broiler breeder pullets or broiler hatching eggs and impacted negatively by the market disruption caused by Covid-19 in the period 23 March 2020 to 31 January 2021

The Covid-19 Support Scheme is a contribution towards the losses incurred by businesses as a result of short term market disturbance. Since other HMG support measures are available to agricultural and horticultural businesses, the rate of compensation for losses incurred has been set 80%. The 80% rate is compatible with that set for the Self Employed Income Support Scheme and the number of wages paid to furloughed workers through the Coronavirus Job retention Scheme.

Weir announces further measures to support childcare providers

Education Minister, Peter Weir announced an additional £11.8million in funding to support childcare providers.

This is the second phase of the Covid-19 Childcare Sustainability Support and is for the period of 1 January to 31 March 2021. 

The Covid-19 Childcare Sustainability Support Fund provides vital financial support for eligible registered childcare providers who are continuing to operate at this challenging time. It will also assist with ongoing unavoidable fixed costs for those providers who have temporarily suspended their services due to a lack of demand for their provision during the current restrictions.

The Covid-19 Sustainability Support Fund is open from 10 March 2021 for applications from eligible daycare and school-aged childcare settings, childminders, crèches and playgroups. Grant payment will be made according to the type and size of the provider and eligible providers will be able to apply for funding via Early Years – the Organisation for Young Children website.

More information here.

Weir provides additional Pathway funding for early years education

An additional £900,000 will be available as part of the Pathway Fund budget so that all 169 eligible applicants can receive an award this year. The Fund is administered by Early Years – The Organisation for Young Children (EYO) and prioritises support to children facing disadvantage who are at risk of underachieving in education.

This year £3.85million will be available to enable 169 settings to continue supporting around 8,000 children.

The overall Pathway funding of £3.85m will help to sustain the sector and support approximately 8,000 children by enabling 169 settings to continue delivering their vital services in 2021/22 - 43 of these, as a direct result of the increase in funding.

The new Covid-19 Lough Neagh Financial Support Scheme

DAERA Minister Edwin Poots MLA has announced a funding package of £336,000 to support fishing vessels operating in the Lough Neagh eel and scale fishery, in recognition of reduced market demand due to Covid-19 in 2020.

It brings the total support the Minister has directed towards Northern Ireland’s fisheries sector throughout the pandemic to £3.4million after he allocated £2.64million to the sea fishing sector and a further £425,000 was given to support the aquaculture sector.

Eligible vessels will be able to apply for a proportion of income lost during May and June 2020 (when the fishery was closed) and support for a voluntary tie up period between July and October of that year to reduce fish landings in recognition of limited market demand arising from the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The Department will contact Lough Neagh fishermen who have held a DAERA commercial fishing licence in any of the years 2017 to 2019, to invite them to apply to the Scheme.

Poots signals support for local potato sector

Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots MLA, has signalled the introduction of a financial support package for the potato growers impacted by a reduction in demand from the hospitality and food service sector for processing potatoes in the past seven months due to Covid-19 lockdown measures.

The support will be a contribution towards the verifiable losses incurred by these farmers for the second year in succession. It will help to address the cash flow difficulties and financial impact of losing valuable markets, and sustain their businesses.

Further work is still required to finalise scheme details including eligibility criteria, scheme rules and amount of support available. Anyone selling potatoes for stock feed in the interim is strongly advised to retain evidence of sales to meet anticipated scheme requirements.

Further details of the scheme will be announced in May and explanatory information will be published on the DAERA website at that time.

Over 11,500 farmers and growers have already benefited from almost £23.5million made available by DAERA as a contribution to offset the losses incurred by the pandemic’s impact on the local agri-food sector in 2020. Along with recent announcements of support for cull sows and wool, this will bring the total Covid-19 funding provided to local industry to almost £27m.

Minister Dodds opens scheme to help businesses accelerate benefits of digital technology

Economy Minister Diane Dodds has launched a new Invest Northern Ireland grant scheme to support businesses to investigate and implement new digital technologies that will improve business operations.

The COVID-19 Process and Organisational Improvement Grant (POIG) is one of eight new schemes developed by Invest NI over the last year to help businesses address the impact of COVID-19 on their operations.

The Minister said: “This new scheme from Invest NI will provide grant support to eligible companies to accelerate the benefits of Industry 4.0, which is the ongoing automation of traditional manufacturing and industrial practices, using modern smart technology.

“Through this scheme, companies will be supported to develop and implement process and organisational improvements using digital technologies, such as automation, robotics or digitisation. These improvements will ultimately improve the resilience and efficiency of these businesses for the future.”

POIG is open to any business operating in one of the following sectors:

  • manufacturing
  • construction
  • information and communication
  • professional, scientific and technical activities.

Eligible businesses will be able to apply for support towards staff, and potential consultancy costs, as part of a process or organisation improvement project. Eligible projects must have minimum labour (internal staff) or consultancy costs of £40,000, of which internal staff costs must be at least 20%.

Applications are now open and will close at 12 noon on Friday 21 May 2021.

The maximum level of grant support will be £50,000 for small and medium-size companies and £200,000 for large companies.

The Childcare Temporary Closure Support Fund

An extension to the Covid-19 Childcare Temporary Closure fund for the period January to March 2021 has been announced.

The Covid-19 Childcare Temporary Closure Support Fund will provide continued support for childcare providers who have been forced to close temporarily due to a Covid-related incident within their provision.   

The Covid-19 Temporary Closure Fund is open from 24 February 2021 for applications from eligible daycare and school-aged childcare settings, childminders, crèches and playgroups.

Grant payment will be made according to the type and size of the provider. Eligible childcare providers will be able to apply for funding via Early Years – the Organisation for Young Children website.

Find out more here.
Covid Recovery Fund

This fund will help to safely deliver essential services during the Covid-19 crisis, with an allocation of £2.5m to assist with the safe reopening of the VCSE sector and additional funds of £800,000 to provide IT and digital devices to VCSE groups which need to move services to an online platform.

Groups can apply for awards up to £5,000 for purchase of PPE and IT and digital devices. Further information is available here.

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.

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.

This scheme is open to applications until 31 January 2021.  

Find out more here.

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 pro