Additional government business and personal support measures announced 17 March
The Chancellor has now announced further support to business and individuals well beyond that which was included in last week's Budget. We'll focus on the financial aspects here rather than the public health issues, and on financial support the overriding message from the announcement was that the Chancellor and the Government would do "whatever it takes" to support businesses and individuals through the period of disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
The first announcement was a significant extension to the Business Interruption Loan Scheme announced last week. This will provide loans of up to £5m for small and medium sized businesses as part of an overall package worth "an initial" £330 billion. The first loans are to be available from the start of next week, 23 March, and no interest would be due for the first six months.
The second main announcement concerned an additional £20 billion package of business rates cuts and grants focussed on certain sectors. The specific announcements related to England, with an additional £3.5 billion to the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It remains to be seen how Scotland's share will be used but may well be modelled on the English package. This included a year's business rates holiday for all businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors, with a cash grant of up to £25,000 for businesses within that sector with a rateable value below £51,000. Smaller businesses, typically those without properties, would be eligible for a cash grant of £10,000.
The Chancellor had prefaced the announcement on business rates by addressing the criticism of the previous day's mixed message regarding staying away from pubs and restaurants, confirming that for those businesses in that sector who have insurance that covers pandemics, the government's actions were sufficient to ensure that the cover would apply.
Finally, the Chancellor announced that an agreement had been struck with mortgage lenders to offer 3 month mortgage repayment holidays where individuals and families were in financial difficulty due to the coronavirus crisis.
He added that an additional package of measures would be announced in terms of employment support in the coming days, following consultations with trade unions and business groups, to help protect people's jobs and their incomes. This has been the area that most clients have been concerned about in recent days and clarification as to how they may be able to protect jobs while the economy shuts down would be most welcome. Once we have more news on this and the other matters covered above we will pass it on.