COVID-19 UPDATE: 18/03/20

Yesterday the Government announced an unprecedented set of measures to support the economy and businesses, small and large. Further support for individuals affected by the virus was announced with more measures being considered. The Government’s focus has been to produce measures that can be brought into effect quickly – some from Monday – there is no point in great soundbites, if money doesn’t flow. 

Supporting businesses:

  • An initial £330 billion of loan guarantees will be made available – equivalent to 15 per cent of our GDP – so any businesses who needs access to cash to pay their rent, the salaries of employees, pay suppliers or purchase stock, will be able to access a government-backed loan. There will also be tax cuts for British businesses worth nearly £20 billion.
  • All businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sector, irrespective of their rateable value, are exempt from business rates for 12 months. In addition, we will provide small businesses in these sectors with an additional grant scheme of up to £25,000. Any business with a rateable value of less than £51,000 can now get access to a government grant.
  • Supporting small and medium-sized businesses to cope with the extra costs of paying Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) by refunding eligible SSP costs. The criteria for eligible businesses are:
  • The refund will be limited to two weeks per employee who has claimed SSP as a result of Covid19.
  • Employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible.
  • Employers should keep records but should not require employees to provide a doctor’s note.
  • The eligible period will commence from the day on which regulations extending SSP come into force.
  • The government will work with employers over the coming months to set up the repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible.
  • The measures announced provide a comprehensive, coordinated and coherent response to what is a serious and evolving economic situation.

Supporting individuals:

  • Introduced a three-month mortgage holiday for those in difficulty due to coronavirus – people won’t have to pay a penny towards their mortgage while they get back on their feet.
  • Statutory Sick Pay will be now be available for eligible individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 who are unable to work because they have the virus or are self-isolating in line with PHE guidance.
  • It will become easier for people to obtain a sick note. People who are advised to self-isolate will be able to obtain an alternative to the sick note to cover this by contacting NHS 111, rather than visiting a doctor. This can be used by employees where their employers require evidence
  • The government will be doing more to support people who are not eligible for Statutory Sick Pay, like the self-employed, so that nobody is penalised for doing the right thing. For the duration of the outbreak, the requirements of the Universal Credit Minimum Income Floor, will be temporarily relaxed for those who have COVID-19 or are self-isolating according to government advice. Employment and Support Allowance will also be payable for eligible people affected by COVID-19 or self-isolating from day 1 of sickness, rather than day 8.
  • Face-to-face assessments for all sickness and disability benefits for the next 3 months will be suspended. This is being taken as a precautionary measure to protect vulnerable people from unnecessary risk of exposure to coronavirus. Those who are entitled to a benefit will continue to receive support, and that new claimants are able to access the safety net

These measures deliver on many of the requests made by businesses and constituents in Amber Valley in recent days. I will add further updates here once the details on how to claim the various funding streams has been set out.

There is more to do – especially how we get support to those not entitled to sick pay, those made redundant, the self-employed and others not on regular employment contracts, and the Government is working on these measures.

For more on Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the support given by the Government, visit:
https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/coronavirus-covid-19-uk-government-response