Government updates guidance on small business and retail sector grant schemes

The Government has published new guidance for local authorities on the small business and retail sector grant schemes.

These are one of several measures introduced by the Government to help businesses that are most at risk of failure due to the actions taken to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.

As previously discussed in our other updates, the Government has created two separate schemes the Small Business Grants Fund (SBGF) and the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund (RHLGF), which are now beginning to be delivered by local authorities.

The latest guidance states: “These grant schemes will offer a lifeline to businesses who are struggling to survive due to the Coronavirus shutdown. Local authorities should make payments as quickly as possible to support struggling businesses.”

The Small Business Grants Fund (SBGF)

All businesses in England in receipt of either small business rates relief (SBRR) or rural rates relief (RRR) in the business rates system will be eligible for a grant of £10,000.

Hereditaments included in this scheme are those which on the 11 March 2020 were eligible for relief, including those with a rateable value between £12,000 and £15,000 which usually receive tapered relief.

The Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund (RHLGF)

Businesses in England that would have received the expanded retail discount on 11 March with a rateable value of less than £51,000 are eligible for cash grants for each property they own and operate from.

Those with a property that has a rateable value of up to £15,000 will receive a grant of £10,000, while those with a property that has a rateable value of between £15,000 and £51,000 will receive a grant of £25,000. Businesses with a rateable value over £51,000 are not eligible.

Charities 

Charities that otherwise would meet the necessary criteria but whose bill for 11 March was reduced to nil by a local discretionary award are still eligible for the RHLG, according to the guidance.

Exclusions

Hereditaments that are occupied for personal use, such as private stables, beach huts, moorings, car parks and parking spaces are excluded from both schemes.

Additionally, businesses that were in liquation or were dissolved as of the 11 March cannot apply for either scheme.

Applications 

Neither scheme has a mandatory application process. Instead, businesses should be contacted by their local authorities who will outline how they can claim a grant.

In some cases, where a business has an existing direct debit to pay business rates, local authorities can handle the application automatically or they may request additional details via an online form.

Fraud

The guidance from the Government makes it clear that these schemes are open to a risk of ‘deliberate manipulation and fraud’. As such, any business caught falsifying their records to gain additional grant money will be prosecuted and the funding provided will be reclaimed.

To assist local authorities, the Government Grants Management Function and Counter Fraud Function has made their digital assurance tool, Spotlight, available to councils to help prevent fraudulent claims.

Payments

The Government confirmed in its latest daily briefing that payments of grants would begin now and that some firms have already received funding automatically from their local authority.

It is recommended that you check your accounts to ensure the money has been deposited if you are expecting payments to be paid automatically.

If you have not been contacted by your local authority and believe you are eligible, we recommend that you speak to the relevant officer at your council to find out how the funding is being delivered in your area.

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