Small businesses and those operating in the retail, hospitality and leisure sector could be eligible for a share of £57m in grants, in a huge boost for the city in response the coronavirus.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council is administering the government funding to directly support businesses in the city. The authority has written to 4,674 businesses to encourage them to check the grant criteria. The move comes after the Chancellor last week announced there would be two grant schemes to help businesses through the pandemic.

Under the small business grant fund, all businesses in the city in receipt of small business rates relief and rural rates relief will be eligible for a payment of £10,000 in line with the eligibility criteria.

Under the retail, hospitality and leisure grant fund, businesses in the city in receipt of expanded retail discount, with a rateable value of up to £15,000 will receive a grant of £10,000 in line with the eligibility criteria. Eligible businesses in these sectors with a property that has a rateable value of over £15,000 and less than £51,000 will receive a grant of £25,000, subject to meeting the criteria. Businesses with a rateable value of £51,000 or over are not eligible, and businesses that are not ratepayers in the business rates system are not included in the scheme.

Council leader Abi Brown said: “This is a tremendous boost for thousands of businesses across the city. We’re determined to do all we can to help businesses through this most testing of times. As such, we have moved quickly to write to businesses, and they will receive letters in the coming days. We hope to be able to start paying the grants out to eligible businesses over the next weeks. We urge businesses to check if they are eligible, 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: https://www.stoke.gov.uk/businessratesgrants.

Further government guidance regarding conditions and exclusions can be found here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/874772/small-business-grant-fund-and-retail-guidance.pdf

In addition, the government has introduced a business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England for the 2020-21 tax year, which has also been extended to non-local authority providers of childcare.

Councillor Brown added: “I want to give the assurance that we have applied the relief to all businesses that have been identified as eligible and new bills showing nothing to pay have been sent. In the meantime, we will not be taking out business rates by direct debit from any businesses that have already qualified for the business rates retail discount, as shown on their original rates bills. We are also advising all businesses that pay by a different method, such as online or by cash, and that had also already qualified for the discount, that they do not need to pay their business rates bills this coming financial year. To stress, all businesses – including new ones – that qualify for the business rates holiday will receive their replacement bills in the coming weeks that set out that they will not have to pay any business rates for this coming financial year.”

Businesses that do not receive an updated bill by 15 April 2020, but feel they may qualify, are asked to contact: businessrates@stoke.gov.uk or call 01782 238274.

Support for larger business is available directly through central government. For further information please see https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses

**A national campaign has also launched to help people protect themselves from preventable financial fraud, through the coronavirus pandemic. The Take Five to Stop Fraud initiative is led by UK Finance. It is being delivered with and through a range of partners in the UK payments industry, financial services firms, law enforcement agencies, telecommunication providers, commercial, public and third sector organisations.

Residents and businesses are asked to follow a number of steps:

Stop – taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe. Challenge – could it be fake? It is ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you. Protect – contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud. Reporting to Action Fraud can be done online at https://www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040. To report offers of financial assistance from HMRC contact phishing@hmrc.gov.uk.

A summary of the Coronavirus Act 2020 which passed into law on 26 March is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-bill-what-it-will-do/what-the-coronavirus-bill-will-do

For more information and advice on coronavirus (COVID-19) please visit Public Health England: https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2020/01/23/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-what-you-need-to-know/ and the NHS: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

All residents are reminded about the critical importance of regular handwashing with soap and hot water for 20 seconds. The importance of this action cannot be underestimated.

For more information on digital services, visit www.stoke.gov.uk, download the MyStoke App, or follow the city council’s social media channels.

 

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