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 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



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​

  • 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.
  • People on paternity and maternity leave who return to work in the coming months will be eligible for the government’s furlough scheme.

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.

Announcement of a one-off payment of £1,000 to employers that have used the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) for each furloughed employee who remains continuously employed until 31 January 2021. The bonus will provide additional support to retain employees.

To  be eligible, employees will need to:

  • earn at least £520 per month (above the Lower Earnings Limit) on average for November, December and January
  • have been furloughed at any point and legitimately claimed for under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
  • have been continuously employed up until at least 31 January 2021
  • Employers will be able to claim the bonus from February 2021 once accurate Real Time Information (RTI) data to 31 January has been received.

More information about this scheme can be found here and full guidance will be published in September.

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.

The scheme will open 26 May

For more information click here


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


Emergency loans scheme for three million excluded from Government support


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 any 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

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 30 July include:

Changes to state aid rules as a result of UK Government and industry lobbying mean that more small businesses can now benefit from loans of up to £5 million under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS). Previously businesses which were classed as 'undertakings in difficulty' were unable to access CBILS because of EU rules (Undertakings in difficulty are usually businesses with high levels of debt and accumulated losses).

Businesses in this category and which have fewer than 50 employees and a turnover of less than £9 million can apply to CBILS.

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.
NI Small Business Loan

Part of the Invest NI Access to Finance Strategy providing loans of £10-£15,000 to start-up businesses and £10-£100.000 for established businesses.  The NISBLF II funding can be used as well as the Bounce Back and CBILS loans.

To find out more visit or call:

Michael Carlin

T: 07545250658 or

Donal Leahy

T: 07999751095

Tax Liabilities

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.

  • Applications for the second grant will open 17 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. The new rule that states you have to declare your business was impacted after mid-Jul to be eligible for the second grant.  So if your business was impacted in June and had recovered after 14 July you are not eligible.

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

Hotels, bars, restaurants and cafes will see a temporary cut in their VAT from 20% to 5% as the Chancellor’s Summer Statement gave a boost to the sector hardest hit by coronavirus.

And in a further move to encourage people to go out, Eat Out to Help Out, a voucher scheme in which diners will have 50% off meals including non-alcoholic drinks up to a maximum of £10 per head during August.

Find a restaurant that’s registered for the scheme near you:

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

Tourism Capital Development Funding Support

This programme is designed to improve the attractiveness of Northern Ireland’s visitor experiences.

It will assist tourism providers to market and sell their experiences through improved web provision given the market pressures within the post Covid environment. It will provide guidance to experience providers to enhance their website and provide financial assistance for necessary improvements thereto, including search engine optimisation, provision of the right content, and the use of the right tactics to capture sales.

The programme opened 20 July 2020 and is operated and managed by Tourism Northern Ireland in partnership with the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs. 

How to apply?

See the guidelines on the Tourism NI Website.

If you think you are eligible to apply, please phone 028 9592 6340 or email the Capital Funding team at E: to obtain an Expression of Interest form.

N.B. Expression of Interest forms must be received by 3pm on 21 August 2020. Incomplete Expression of Interest forms or those received after the closing date will not be considered for assessment.

Arts Funding - The Creative Support Fund

The fund is designed to help bolster musicians, freelancers, craftspeople and performers, and prevent the loss of arts organisations. It builds on the initial Artists Emergency Programme package launched on 27 April that was heavily oversubscribed.

The Creative Support Fund will have two strands:


  • fund  for individuals will open from 31 July until 17 August and the awards will range from £1,000 to £5,000
  • the  organisational strand will reopen for new applications from small and medium-sized organisations in August and the maximum award available will be £25,000

Interim emergency provision is also being made for larger arts organisations pending further announcements on the detail of the £33 million support package for arts, culture and heritage which is subject to Executive agreement.

The fund will be administered on behalf of the Department for Communities by the Arts Council Northern Ireland.

£10.5m childcare recovery support fund

The Childcare Recovery Support Fund launched on Monday 27 July 2020 and will be administered by Early Years - the organisation for young children on behalf of the Department of Education.  The objective is to provide a level of financial support to childcare providers to assist with the additional costs of operating within Department of Health COVID-19 guidance and to support their financial viability in the reopening phase, recognising that many providers may not be able to operate at full capacity.

Find out more on the Early Years website.

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.

Backup Hardship Fund

In light of the devastating impact of COVID-19, Backup – The Technical Entertainment Charity, is announcing the creation of a separate initial Hardship Fund, which will provide limited financial assistance to crew/production personnel and people working in the technical supply chain across the UK entertainment sector, including those from live events, theatre, TV and film, and the technical supply chain to the industry.  

With the help of its supporters, including “We Make Events”, Backup has raised £100,000 to date, with Light Relief agreeing to match this funding with a further £100,000, targeted to help support the lighting community. This means that there will initially be a total fund of £200,000 allocated to this Hardship Fund, with further fundraising in progress.

During the first application period, from 19 October 2020 (08:00) to 30 October 2020, Backup is targeting resources to people who have received NO government grants (e.g. from the furlough scheme (CJRS) and Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS)) and NO grants from other charitable funds (e.g. Theatre Artists Fund, Arts Council, etc.). All successful applicants will receive funds two weeks after the closing date. 

For more information visit the Backup website

Multiscreen Freelancers Fund

Multiscreen Freelancers is a pilot fund that encourages Northern Ireland interactive companies (video games, immersive) to engage with freelancers from other screen sectors (film/TV, animation, VFX, documentary etc.) and arts sectors (live events, theatre etc.) that have skills which could be used to add value to interactive projects. The aim of the fund is to encourage greater collaboration between interactive companies and other screen/arts industries, as well as supporting freelancers in refining transferable skills which can be used on interactive projects.

Due to the impact of Covid-19 on the traditional screen sectors such as film/TV, as well as the arts, there is a group of talented freelancers currently with less work, or not working at all, with skills which can add value to interactive projects and support the development of the Northern Ireland interactive sector.

For example:

•A live sound engineer mixing sound for VR
•A film fiction writer supporting narrative design for an RPG game
•A production coordinator providing planning and scheduling support
•A gaffer providing advice on how to light a scene in a video game cut scene

Multiscreen Freelancers will run from November 1 to March 31 and Northern Ireland Screen will support the cost of a freelancer position up to £2,000 per month. Freelancers can be engaged for any length of time; however, the latest companies can apply for the support is Dec 15th with positions starting at the latest 1st Jan. All positions should finish by March 31st.

For more information visit the Northern Ireland Screen 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