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Financial Assistance

Access available support

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

From 1 July 2020, there are significant modifications to the scheme including new flexibility to bring furloughed staff back to work on a part time basis, whilst allowing employers to claim under the Scheme for hours not worked.

Additionally, the Scheme will taper from 1 August 2020. This will initially require employers to contribute to the costs of national insurance and pension contributions of furloughed workers, but from 1 September 2020 onwards employers will also be required to contribute to furloughed workers wages.

Job Retention Bonus

The government will introduce a one-off payment of £1,000 to UK employers for every furloughed employee who remains continuously employed through to the end of January 2021.

Employees must earn above the Lower Earnings Limit (£520 per month) on average between the end of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the end of January 2021. Payments will be made from February 2021. Full details about the scheme will be announced by the end of September.

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

Eligible businesses will be able to claim for a second and final grant in August 2020 worth 70% of your average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering a further 3 months’ worth of profits, and capped at £6,570 in total. 
Applications for the second and final grant are now open. If you’re eligible and your business has been adversely affected on or after 14 July 2020, you must make your claim for the second grant on or before 19 October 2020.

DAERA Fishing Industry Support Package

A new £1.5 million support package for Northern Ireland’s fishing industry has been announced by the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

The financial scheme will help the fishing industry during the COVID-19 pandemic, after social distancing measures and the collapse of the European and domestic fish markets have made trading virtually impossible.

Emergency support package for aquaculture sector

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has announced a £360,000 emergency support package for Northern Ireland’s aquaculture sector.

The package aims to help aquaculture businesses that have experienced a significant drop in sales as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and will assist producers of species such as oysters and trout.

The support given will be in the form of a grant payment, covering the three month period from 1 March to 31 May 2020, and will be based on the income lost from sales of aquaculture products due to COVID-19.

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.

Manufacturing Sector Funding

UK registered businesses can apply for funding towards feasibility studies into digital technologies to transform supply chains in UK manufacturing. This funding is from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

Competition opens: Monday 6 July 2020
Competition closes: Wednesday 7 October 2020 11:00am

Innovate UK Smart Grants: August 2020

Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, is investing up to £25 million in the best game-changing and commercially viable innovative or disruptive ideas. All proposals must be business focused projects with durations between 6 and 18 months must have total eligible project costs between £25,000 and £500,000. Projects between 19 months and 36 months must have total eligible project costs between £25,000 and £2 million.

Competition opens: Friday 28 August 2020
Competition closes: Wednesday 25 November 2020 11:00am

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 (CEIF)

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.

Digital Selling Capability Grant (DSCG)

The Minister for the Economy has launched a new £1 million COVID-19 Digital Selling Capability Grant (DSCG) from Invest Northern Ireland, aimed at helping retail and wholesale businesses grow online sales.
Businesses can access a maximum grant of £20,000 to support 50% of eligible costs for projects with a minimum eligible expenditure of £10,000.
Eligible activities include consultancy services or expertise from a digital marketing or e-commerce supplier to:

  • carry out best practice research to identify relevant benchmarks

  • review current digital marketing capabilities and online sales channels

  • develop a digital marketing strategy to maximise online presence

  • develop an e-commerce strategy to drive sustainable growth in online sales

  • implement an enhanced online e-commerce system or improvements to your existing e-commerce solution for the business

  • in-house training and knowledge transfer to develop the digital marketing and e-commerce capability of the employees for the business

  • improve integration and automation with existing e-commerce systems

Garfield Weston Foundation’s New £25m Culture Fund

The £25 million fund is designed to support mid to large scale cultural organisations in the UK to help them restart work, re-engage with audiences, adapt to changed circumstances and generate revenue.

The fund is specifically for charitable organisations with a pre-COVID regular annual income of £500,000 or greater; smaller organisations will be able to apply for the regular grants programme via the Foundation’s website as usual.

Full details of the fund will be available when the fund opens.

Applications will be accepted from 5 October until 9 November 2020.

COVID Social Enterprise Fund

The COVID Social Enterprise Fund will support social enterprises that already deliver services and products but find themselves in financial difficulties directly as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The primary intention of the fund is to help social enterprises to stabilise and manage cash flow over this difficult period. 
The Covid Social Enterprise Fund will open for applications at 9am on 28th September 2020. The Fund will close at 5pm on 23rd October 2020. 

COVID-19 Business and Financial Planning Grant (BFPG)

The Minister for the Economy has launched a new £2 million COVID-19 Business and Financial Planning Grant (BFPG) from Invest Northern Ireland.

BFPG is open to all micro and small or medium-sized businesses in Northern Ireland that are Invest NI customers, or operating in manufacturing, construction, professional services, information and communication, or science and technology.

It provides eligible businesses with financial support to work with a consultant to assess the impact of COVID-19 and develop a strategic recovery plan with financial forecasts.
The call for applications is open until 5pm on Monday 30 November 2020.

Job Retention Bonus - Check if you can claim from 15 February 2020

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.

Localised Restrictions Business 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.

New Apprenticeship Incentice 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.

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