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Financial Assistance

Find out how to access the support that has been made available to NI businesses and employees, who is eligible and how to apply.

Support or Fund

Details of support or fund available

Localised Restrictions Financial Support Scheme

The Localised Restrictions Support Scheme provides financial support to businesses which have been required to close or have had business activities at their premises directly curtailed by health protection restrictions that have been put in place by the NI Executive

Rates Relief


As part of emergency support measures agreed by the NI Executive in response to the COVID-19 crisis, most business ratepayers in Northern Ireland will benefit from a 4-month rates holiday and many from a 12-month rates holiday during the 2020-21 rating year.

Businesses 2020-21 rate bill will be issued in early August 2020. This will indicate whether the business will benefit from the 4-month rates holiday or the 12-month rates holiday.  If the rates holiday has not been already applied to your rate bill, and you consider that your property is used for one of the qualifying uses, please complete the Rates Relief online application form.

The Regulations provide that properties used for certain purposes will not be charged business rates from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021. The sectors are listed below, with examples of some of the qualifying uses:

  • Hospitality – including restaurants, cafes, coffee shops, public houses.
  • Tourism – including B&Bs (which pay business rates), guest houses, hotels, privately run caravan & camping sites, self-catering holiday accommodation, tourist attractions and facilities.
  • Leisure – including cinemas, theatres, leisure centres and facilities, museums, sports premises, sports grounds and associated sport clubs, clubhouses, and music venues.
  • Retail and retail services – shops of all types and sizes (excluding retail premises with retail floor space greater than 500m² Net Internal Area (NIA) and which is wholly or mainly used for the retail sale of food and household goods; and off-licences). Examples of services include hairdressers, barbers, nail and beauty services, fast food outlets, garden centres, travel agencies, car showrooms, auction houses, retail estate agents, and clothing, shoe or electrical goods repairs.
  • Childcare – children’s day-care and nursery premises.

The Small Business Rate Relief scheme will be continued in 2020-21. The rates of relief and thresholds for eligibility have not changed. 

The Hardship Rate Relief scheme is available for non-domestic ratepayers who have been affected by exceptional circumstances. 
The Executive budget announced on 31 March also includes a reduction in business rates. For more information visit NIbusinessinfo

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is being extended until the end of April 2021.

The government is extending the CJRS to support individuals and businesses who are impacted by disruption caused by coronavirus (COVID-19) this winter. This is an extension of the CJRS and the scheme rules will remain the same except where the government says otherwise. For claim periods running to January 2021, employees will receive 80% of their usual salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month.

The government will review the policy in January to decide whether economic circumstances are improving enough to ask employers to contribute more.

Claims from 1 November 2020 must be submitted by 11.59pm 14 calendar days after the month you’re claiming for. If this time falls on the weekend or a bank holiday then claims should be submitted on the next working day.

Furlough claims: 

  • January 2021 - claim must be submitted by 15 February.
  • February 2021 - claim must be submitted by 15 March.
  • March 2021 - claim must be submitted by 15 April.

Job Retention Bonus

The Job Retention Bonus is a £1,000 one-off taxable payment to you (the employer), for each eligible employee that you furloughed and kept continuously employed until 31 January 2021.
You’ll be able to claim the bonus between 15 February 2021 and 31 March 2021. You do not have to pay this money to your employee.  To meet the minimum income threshold you must pay your employee a total of at least £1,560 (gross) throughout the tax months:

  • 6 November to 5 December 2020
  • 6 December 2020 to 5 January 2021
    You must pay your employee at least one payment of taxable earnings (of any amount) in each of the relevant tax months.
  • 6 January to 5 February 2021

Business Interruption Loan Scheme

Announced by The Chancellor at Budget 2020, the CBILS can provide facilities of up to £5m for smaller businesses across the UK who are experiencing lost or deferred revenues, leading to disruptions to their cashflow.

Six-month VAT cut to 5% for hospitality and tourism

On 8 July, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the rate of VAT for the hospitality and tourism industries will be reduced to 5% from 15 July 2020 to 12 January 2021.

Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme

The Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme will provide a government guarantee of 80% to enable banks to make loans of up to £200 million to all viable firms with an annual turnover of between £45 million and £500 million (available from 26 May).

Department for Finance

Business Rates Advice and Support - grants available to businesses eligible for Small Business Rates Relief. 

COVID Corporate Finance Funding (CCFF) Programme for Large Companies

Assessed through the Bank of England administered scheme, the BoE purchases commercial paper from companies on similar terms to those prevailing prior to COVID-19 crisis. 

Self-employment Income Support Scheme

This scheme has been extended. 

To make a claim for the third grant your business must have had a new or continuing impact from coronavirus between 1 November 2020 and 29 January 2021.
The third taxable grant is worth 80 per cent of your average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering three months' worth of profits, and capped at £7,500 in total.

DAERA Fishing Industry Support Package

A further £1.7 million bringing brings the total amount of support allocated to NI’s fishing industry during the Covid crisis, to up to £3.2million. This funding is administered Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

All owners of NI registered trawlers and dredgers will be contacted by the Department and invited to apply for assistance.

Future Fund for Innovative Businesses

The government has announced a new scheme to issue convertible loans to innovative companies which are facing financing difficulties due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Future Fund scheme will issue loans to UK-based companies ranging from £125,000 to £5 million, subject to at least equal match funding from private investors.

UK Government Business Support Package for Innovate UK Award Holders

Up to £210 million is available in continuity loans to SMEs and third sector organisations that have a challenge in continuing a live project for which they have an award from Innovate UK.

Loans are for organisations that that find themselves facing a sudden shortage or even unavailability of funds resulting directly from the COVID-19 pandemic.

This innovation continuity loan may be suitable if you need funding of between £250,000 and £1,600,000.  Open for applications until all money is allocated or 31 December 2020, whichever is earliest.

Bounce Back Loan Scheme

The Bounce Back Loan scheme will help small and medium-sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000.

The government will guarantee 100% of the loan and there won’t be any fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months.

Loan terms will be up to 6 years. No repayments will be due during the first 12 months.

Co-fund programme for medical device development

Galway-based Centre for Research in Medical Devices (CÚRAM) is inviting Northern Ireland businesses to apply for their competitive Co-fund Programme for Medical Device development.

The call aims to support start-ups, small and medium-sized businesses and multinational corporations working in the medical device technology field to develop new industry solutions in these challenging times.

UKRI Research and Innovation Opportunity

UKRI have announced an open call for research and innovation ideas to address COVID-19.

Proposals are invited for short term projects addressing and mitigating the health, social, economic and environmental impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Emergency Business Solutions Programme

Professional advice, to the value of £2,000/€2,250 inc VAT (100% funded), is available via Intertrade Ireland for cross-border companies in manufacturing and tradable services, to address key business challenges related to COVID-19. 

E-Merge Programme

Intertrade Ireland’s E-Merge programme provides £2500/€2800 fully funded consultancy support to help businesses develop online sales and eCommerce solutions. 

Arts and Business NI Investment Fund

Arts and Business NI have designated a £15,000 seed fund to support arts organisations and individual practitioners.

BT Small Business Support Scheme

BT Group has announced the launch of a new scheme to help Northern Ireland SMEs grow following the disruption caused by COVID-19. 

The BT Small Business Support Scheme is designed to help SMEs that have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. It is intended to enable firms to build their recovery and growth following COVID-19 and features a series of measures aimed at boosting connectivity, cash flow and confidence.

Covid-19 Equity Investment Fund

Applications are now open for the COVID-19 Equity Investment Fund (CEIF).

The fund is targeted at early stage and seed stage SMEs, providing matching equity investment or convertible loan notes of up to a maximum of £700,000 for technology and innovative businesses.  CEIF will help early stage high-growth potential businesses in Northern Ireland access financing to progress their business plans and prepare for recovery and growth.

CEIF supports technology and innovative businesses with a focus on the following sectors:

  • advance manufacturing, materials and engineering, including materials handling
  • digital and creative technologies
  • life and health sciences
  • cyber security
  • precision medicine​
  • ​big data, internet of things and analytics.

New Apprenticeship Incentive Scheme

This incentive is available to all employers to support the recruitment of new apprentices. Employers will be eligible for up to £3,000 for each new apprenticeship opportunity created from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021. This bonus will apply to all new apprenticeship opportunities and includes apprentices who have been made redundant:

  • Payment 1 - £2,000 after 90 days retention following start of new apprenticeship
  • Payment 2 - £1,000 after 200 days retention following start* of a new paid apprenticeship

Now open for applications.

The £5.5m Heritage Recovery Fund Northern Ireland

The Heritage Recovery Fund is part of the £29million which the Department for Communities announced on 24 September to support the culture, language, arts and heritage sectors impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic.  The National Lottery Heritage Fund is distributing the £5.5m Heritage Recovery Fund on behalf of Department for Communities to help the sector recover from the pandemic and become more resilient.  Key features of the fund are

  • £5.5m fund​
  • ​Grants of £3,000 to £250,000 for non-profit or private heritage organisations
  • Grants of £3,000 or £5,000 for individuals working in the heritage sector
  • Open for applications between 2 November and noon on 27 November 2020

Funding must be spent by 31 March 2021

Bus Operator Financial Assistance

The Department for Infrastructure (DfI) has opened a £5m financial assistance scheme for private coach and bus operators.
Eligible private coach and bus operators will receive £8,000 for the first vehicle and £4,450 for each additional vehicle in their fleet, or their actual loss for the period April to September if the loss is lower.

Newly Self-Employed Support Scheme

The Newly Self-Employed Support Scheme (NSESS) will offer an initial one-off taxable grant of £3,500 to newly self-employed individuals (sole traders and those in partnerships) that meet the criteria outlined.

Business Booster Grant Fund

MarketFinance Business Booster will award three £5,000 grants to the UK’s hardest working and most exciting small businesses.

Open Data Innovation and Outreach Fund

The Department of Finance has opened a new round of its Innovation and Outreach Fund to encourage the use of open data - that is data that can be freely used, re-used and redistributed by anyone.
In the second cycle of the fund, £40,000 is available to support projects.

Northern Ireland Capacity Building Fund for VCSE Organisations

Opens 12 January 2021. 

A £20 million fund acquired from dormant UK bank accounts will open to applications from voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations in Northern Ireland in the new year.
The new fund will provide grants of up to £100,000 to support community organisations by helping them be more financially resilient, develop capacity and adapt to future challenges.

Limited Company Director's Support Scheme

The Minister for the Economy has announced details of the Limited Company Director’s Support Scheme, designed to provide financial support to company directors who have personally been adversely impacted by COVID-19.
The scheme, administered by Invest NI on behalf of the Department for the Economy, will open to online applications at 6pm on Thursday 21 January 2021.

Resilience and Recovery Loan Fund

The Resilience & Recovery Loan Fund (RRLF) is a new fund for social enterprises and charities that are improving people’s lives across the UK who are experiencing disruption to their normal business model as a result of COVID-19.

It has been established to make an existing government scheme (the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS - see below) more easily accessible to charities and social enterprises.

VCSE Covid Recovery Fund

On behalf of the Department for Communities (DfC), Co-operation Ireland in partnership with Rural Community Network announced the re-opening of the VCSE Covid Recovery Fund.
This phase of the Fund, which opened for applications at 10am on Monday 18 January 2021, is to ensure that VCSE organisations have the sufficient PPE required to continue service delivery. Groups can apply for awards up to £5,000 for purchase of PPE. Organisations who were previously successful in applying to this element of the fund can reapply to receive up to £5,000 (e.g. if an organisation was awarded £2,000 from the 1st phase of applications, they can apply for a further £3,000). Closes on 29th January 2021 (4pm).

PAY VAT defered due to COVID-19

If you deferred VAT between 20 March and 30 June 2020 and still have payments to make, you can:

  • pay the deferred VAT in full on or before 31 March 2021

  • opt in to the VAT deferral new payment scheme when it launches in 2021

  • contact HMRC if you need more help to pay

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