Small and micro businesses and those with relatively high ongoing fixed property costs could be eligible for a further share of grants in a continued boost for the city in response for coronavirus.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council is administering the government funding to directly support businesses in the city. Under the small business grant fund, businesses in the city could be eligible for a payment of £5,000 in line with the eligibility criteria.

Those that could benefit include small and micro businesses that have high ongoing fixed property costs, can demonstrate they have suffered a significant fall in income due to the Covid-19 crisis and those businesses which occupy property, or part of a property, with a rateable value, annual rent or mortgage payments below £51,000.

Businesses with a rateable value of £51,000 or over are not excluded, and businesses that are not ratepayers in the business rates system are not included in the scheme. 238 businesses grants of £5,000 have already been issued to a total of £1.3m in the first wave. A further £1.5m is available in the second wave.

Council leader Abi Brown said: “This is a further boost for businesses across the city when they need it the most. We’re determined to do all we can to help businesses through this most testing of times. The process to apply is quick and easy and we hope to be able to start paying the grants out to eligible businesses over the next weeks. We want to encourage small businesses in the city that may have previously missed out on funding to check if they are eligible for this fund, and we will do all we can to ensure they receive the right support that they are entitled to.”

Businesses are encouraged to check the criteria by visiting: www.stoke.gov.uk/discretionarygrant  The deadline for applications is Thursday, 9 July at 4pm. 

Meanwhile the #StokeonTrentTogether launched in partnership with voluntary organisation VAST, to support communities during the pandemic has topped 76,467 welfare calls to local residents.

Since its launch in March 2020 the Stoke-on-Trent Together hub has also:

Responded to 8225 calls and 526 out of hours’ calls.
Answered 3830 requests for support (food requests excluded).
Received 743 offers of help from local residents.
Delivered 4187 food parcels to 2699 addresses.
Delivered 1288 prescriptions.
A number of teams across the local authority, plus external agencies, have been involved in supporting the Stoke-on-Trent Together hub, including Libraries – manning call handling into the 0800 telephone line, Community Development – coordinating support to individual requests, Unitas – supplying and delivering food parcels, Transport Service – delivering prescriptions and Lifelife team members supporting out of hours access.

40 members of the leisure team alone including swimming teachers, receptionists, catering assistants, gymnastic coaches have made in excess of 4,000 calls per week.

Cllr Abi Brown added: “Whilst many staff were apprehensive initially, most have found it extremely rewarding and satisfying that they have been able to help in any way. Many of the residents look forward to their weekly call and have formed friendships with the team. It just shows what a difference these calls have made and how much they have meant to the residents. With the easing of the lockdown restrictions, we have seen demand for the service reduce significantly. However, for the time being, #StokeonTrentTogether is still here to support our residents.”

If you know somebody who is self-isolating or shielding and doesn’t have family or friends to call upon for support, then #StokeonTrentTogether can help. Residents can fill out the online form at https://corona19.vast.org.uk/ or they can call 0800 561 5610 which is open Monday to Sunday between 9am and 5pm.

In other news, as pubs, restaurants and hairdressers across the city start to take steps to reopen safely over the coming weeks from 4 July in line with Government guidance, trading standards teams are offering advice and support to help businesses become Covid-secure.

Businesses that are unsure about to how to comply with the guidance can email public.protection@stoke.gov.uk and council teams will work with them so they can operate in a safe manner.

Separate guidance has been published for hairdressers, which states that a clear visor should be worn by the person providing the service, covering the face and providing a barrier between the wearer and the customer from respiratory droplets caused by sneezing, coughing or speaking.

The government is also consulting with industry on how businesses should record customer information to help keep customers and employees safe and support the test and trace system. Businesses are responsible for putting the correct measures in place to meet the government requirements. 

Trading standards will continue to monitor compliance and will intervene where appropriate. Businesses can be ordered to put additional measures in place or even to close if necessary.

As a reminder, businesses that are still not allowed to open must please stay closed until further changes are announced.

Cllr Brown said: “People see trading standards as enforcement only but they are also there to offer advice and support and this is something that can’t be overlooked at this complex time as we adjust to the ‘new normal’. We would urge businesses to get in touch if they need help and the team will be able to do just that.”

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