I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’m Bill Murray in Groundhog Day - stuck in an endless purgatory of the same day repeating itself over and over again with no escape. Yes it’s another day, another lockdown and it feels never-ending. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock (in which case, is there room for one more?) you’ll know that England is now in a strict national lockdown until mid-February. That means that all non-essential business, schools and universities need to close and we all have to stay at home.
What does this mean for businesses and employees now who are once again affected by this absolute fiasco? Well, it seems it’s business as usual if you will pardon the pun, as not much has changed. However, Rishi Sunk did unveil “more financial support” for businesses affected by the lockdown measures yesterday morning (note my use of inverted commas). Retail, hospitality and leisure businesses will now be able to apply for one-off grants of up to £9,000 per property.
On top of these one-off £9k grants, a further £594m discretionary fund will be made available via local authorities and devolved administrations to support other businesses outside of these sectors who have also been affected by the lockdown.
There are already existing support packages in place though. These include grants of up to £3,000 for closed businesses, 100% business rates relief for hospitality, leisure and retail, and of course, everyone’s good ol’ pal furlough. While Rishi has been very quiet on further furlough support, the current scheme is due to run until the end of April as it is so this seems the government are still optimistic that we will be out of the woods by then with the rollout of the mass vaccination programme. Remember, you can apply for furlough at any time, even if you have never claimed under the scheme before.
Along with furlough, other notable absentees from Rishi’s measures included extending the business rates holiday (which ends in April), VAT cut, or an increase in statutory sick pay, despite calls from business leaders for such moves. Even with the new £4.6bn support package, is it enough?
With Englands’s lockdown due to be reviewed on February 15th and Scotland’s at the end of January we now enter another period of stasis. We can only hope that this really is the last time we have to endure this and hope that all the hard work that has gone into keeping businesses afloat and employees on the payroll over the past 10 months has not been in vain. Stay tuned for more updates over the coming weeks. And with that, I’m off to bake my seventy-sixth loaf of banana bread and have a cry into the tea towel.