Half billion-pound coronavirus support package now available for region’s small businesses

Small businesses across the West Midlands have started to receive more than half a billion pounds of financial aid to help them through the coronavirus lockdown, it was confirmed today.

A specific Government funding stream of £561m for small businesses was transferred to the seven metropolitan West Midlands councils on Wednesday (April 1) and more than £1m has already been distributed, the region’s Economic Impact Group has said.

More than 50,000 small businesses in the West Midlands are eligible for financial support as part of the Government’s wider economic support package to cushion the impact of the lockdown.

Most will be able to get small business rates relief and will receive £10,000 each. The remaining firms are retail, hospitality and leisure firms with a rateable value of between £15,000 and £51,000 and will receive £25,000 each.

The seven councils, Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton, have been handed responsibility for getting the financial aid to firms.

The region’s Economic Impact Group, which brings together key public and private sector organisations including the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) to help ease the effects of coronavirus on the regional economy, is supporting councils to make the grant payments quickly.

Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street said: “At least £561 million has now been delivered to the West Midlands and this will be welcome news for thousands of small businesses struggling in the face of this pandemic.

“The challenge now is to get this money, and the other funds announced by Government, out the door and into the hands of these small businesses as quickly as possible, and we are doing everything we can to make that happen.

“It’s crucial that businesses across the region are able to survive this pandemic not just for the livelihoods of families in the short term, but also because they will be vital in getting our economy back on its feet once this is all over.”

Cllr Ian Brookfield, WMCA portfolio holder for economy and innovation and leader of City of Wolverhampton Council, added: “Small businesses are the backbone of our regional economy but have been hit hard by the lockdown and many are struggling to survive.

“We must do everything we can to make it as quick and easy as possible for our small businesses to access this money.

“But I’m pleased that confidence has been put in our local authorities to get this financial support out to those who need it. Councils have a unique understanding of the needs of their local communities and I believe are well placed to support their small businesses through this crisis.”

Despite financial support now starting to get through to firms, the Economic Impact Group has expressed concern over a lack of support for some other businesses.

Tim Pile, chair of the region’s Strategic Economic Development Board, said: “The Chancellor’s financial support package for small businesses recognises the immense scale of the challenge they are immediately facing, and I am pleased to see that money is now being made available. Swift action in administering these funds to businesses is paramount. Pace and delivery are critical.

“Whilst the current measures are extremely welcome, it is also important to recognise that there are still businesses and individuals not being covered by the available support. The impact of Covid-19 is already taking a heavy toll on the economy. Rapid recovery is absolutely critical and we must ensure that as many of our businesses as possible are protected, survive this period and then help rebuild our economy.

“LEPs across the country are working extensively with partners to gather intelligence on how businesses are being impacted. I would urge concerned businesses who are struggling to continue to contact their Growth Hub, along with business representative organisations such as Chambers of Commerce. That way we can provide support and guidance as well as a clear picture on gaps in provision directly to policymakers.”

The Economic Impact Group has been holding a weekly, virtual meeting since early March. Last night’s (Thursday April 2) meeting also heard how the WMCA has set up a Rapid Recruitment Team, which is working with training providers to find suitable candidates for industries in critical need of extra staff, such as supermarkets, care homes, hospitals and other essential services.

Small businesses seeking support under the coronavirus financial support scheme should contact their local council for information.

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