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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

Invest NI Supply Chain Resilience and Development Framework Invest Northern Ireland has introduced a new response scheme to help companies recover from the business challenges caused by COVID-19 and EU Exit.

The Supply Chain Resilience and Development Framework (SCRDF) has been developed to provide support to businesses to help improve their supply chain resilience and competitiveness.

The programme will close to applications at 5pm on Friday 28 May 2021, or earlier if the available advisory resource, or budget, is fully allocated. Projects will be approved on a first-come first-served basis.

Micro Food Business Investment Scheme

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has announced that a £1 million capital grant scheme will open in March 2021, to help existing micro food businesses to upscale production to secure new markets for their products.

Grants of up to £50,000 will be available for micro food and drink manufacturers to expand. 

Seafood Disruption Support Scheme

The UK-wide Seafood Disruption Support Scheme will provide financial assistance to businesses that suffered a financial loss because of delays related to the export of fresh or live fish and shellfish to the EU during January 2021. The fund will be paid retrospectively to cover losses incurred between 1 and 31 January 2021.

BT Digital Boost Mentoring Programme

BT has launched a new mentoring programme to support small businesses in Northern Ireland during the pandemic, in partnership with Digital Boost, a free non-profit platform which unites digital experts with leaders of small businesses.  The new mentoring programme forms part of BT’s Small Business Support Scheme to assist small business during the pandemic and beyond by boosting their connectivity, cashflow and confidence.

COVID-19 Micro-business E-commerce Grant (MBEG)

The COVID-19 Micro-business E-commerce Grant (MBEG) is open to any micro-sized retailer that wants to prepare for growth, develop their customer base and find new markets by enhancing their digital offering, building e-commerce capability and increasing online sales. The scheme was developed and is operated by Invest Northern Ireland.

COVID-19 Productive Investment Capital Grant

The Invest NI Productive Investment Capital Grant (PICG) will support businesses to make productivity-focused capital investments to adapt to these challenges. PICG is open to any businesses operating in manufacturing, construction, information and communication, or professional, scientific and technical activities. Open until 25 February 2021. 

Innovate UK Smart Grants

Opportunity for UK registered organisations to apply for a share of up to £25 million from Innovate UK to deliver game-changing and commercially viable R&D innovation that can significantly impact the UK economy. Applications close 26 May 2021. 

Certified Bed & Breakfast, Guest House, and Guest Accommodation Support Scheme

The Certified Bed & Breakfast, Guest House, and Guest Accommodation Support Scheme is a £4.1 million support initiative administered by Tourism NI on behalf of the Department for the Economy.

This scheme is intended to support business continuity plans, keep the business operational and start to prepare for re-opening.

Wet Pubs Business Support Scheme

The Minister for the Economy has launched a new Wet Pubs Business Support Scheme to provide support to wet pubs, whose premises were required to close or cease trading during the period from 4 July to 23 September 2020.  

The Wet Pubs Business Support Scheme (WPBSS) scheme is aimed at helping to keep companies in business and protect jobs, and to help prevent business closure and promote economic recovery. 

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


The Department of Finance has announced an extension to the rates holiday for a further 12 months for 29,000 businesses at a cost of £230 million. Businesses in the following sectors will pay no rates in 2021-22 for the second year running:
• Airports (Belfast City, Belfast International and City of Derry)
• Childcare;
• Hospitality, tourism and leisure;
• Manufacturing;
• Newspaper production; and
• Retail (excluding larger food stores and off-licences).
The rates holiday will be applied automatically. Any business may choose to opt out of receiving the rates holiday.


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. 

A further round of business grants has been introduced in March 2021. 

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

The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) has been extended until April 2021 to provide critical support to self-employed individuals and members of a partnership in the form of:

  • third grant - covering November 2020 to January 2021 (closed)
  • fourth grant - covering February 2021 to April 2021

Details about the fourth grant will be announced on 3 March 2021.

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.

The Treasury's new Pay as You Grow repayment flexibilities will now enable borrowers to tailor their repayment schedule, with the option to:
• Extend the length of their loans from six to ten years (reducing monthly repayments by almost half).
• Make interest-only payments for six months.
• Pause repayments for up to six months, with the option to use this up to three times throughout the loan.

The Chancellor has extended the flexibility of the third option, which will now be available to all from their first repayment, rather than after six repayments have been made. This will mean that businesses can choose to make no payments on their loans until 18 months after they originally took them out.

The scheme is open to applications until 31 March 2021.


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 further financial assistance scheme for bus and coach operators.

This second scheme will cover the period from 1 October 2020 until 31 March 2021.  This scheme will provide financial assistance to bus and coach operators for ongoing overhead costs and expenses which they have incurred.

The scheme is open to applications until midnight on Friday 9 April 2021.

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.

The scheme is extended to Friday 19 February 2021.

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 (eg 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 deferred 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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