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COVID-19: Advice and support for businesses

See the latest government advice for businesses, to help you understand and access the support which is available to you.

We know the start of 2020 has been extremely tough for businesses. We want to protect yours, the services you provide, and the income of all our residents. To do this we're:

  • supporting businesses affected by flooding
  • moving quickly to look at how we can offer additional local support
  • working with York BID and Make it York to understand how to lessen the impact of coronavirus
  • setting up an emergency fund to support small and micro businesses not covered by government support
  • making the case to government for more support for the city's 12,000 self employed
  • deferring all rent for our commercial tenants for months
  • supporting our key suppliers

Where people’s jobs are affected, we want to make it as quick and simple as possible to access benefits and find any alternative work.

We'll continue to buy locally and invest in the economy in the short-term, and aid the long-term recovery from floods and coronavirus.

Coronavirus updates for businesses in York

The government has announced a package of measures to support businesses and help pay wages, see:

Find out about:


Businesses that can still operate

Most businesses should now be closed. The government has issued further guidance on which businesses can remain open.

If your business continues to operate, contact our Trading Standards Team. There is also support to help you adapt your business model and special advice for food businesses.

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Immediate support with cashflow

We're doing everything we can to process the support announced by the government, including

  • support with tax
  • appling the business rate holiday before any money leaves accounts
  • support with wages
  • access to support for the self-employed.

The government grants and wage payments are not immediately available - early indications are that HMRC could take until mid-April to deliver 80% wage payments. While you wait for government support to be processed, the quickest way to relieve immediate cashflow problems are:

  • talk to your landlord - we have deferred all rent payments from commercial tenants for the next quarter; we’re asking landlords across the city to take the same approach

  • talk to your bank - ask about government backed loans (up to £5m lending and overdraft is available to your business through the new Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme - see British Business Bank for details), your bank can make a decision straight away, you don’t have to spend the money, the government will waive the usual fees, and you shouldn’t pay interest

Where businesses tell us their banks has not made quick decisions, we’re reporting this to the British Banking Association. Remember you're not tied to your own bank, there are 40 providers available.

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Further support for business owners

Talk to any of your industry, member or representative organisations like Make it York, York BID and FSB.

One-to-one support is available through the region’s two Enterprise Partnerships, including helplines for advice, see:

The People Panel is a new online support group, set up by Michelle Mook, managing director of Pro-Development. The virtual online events are held every week day at 10.30am, focusing on how to support employees, discussing areas such as recruitment and retention, HR issues, how to support people working from home, employment law and provide an opportunity for people to share ideas. Email: michelle.mook@pro-development.co.uk to register for sessions.

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Help if you're self-employed

We're working with partners across York to seek support for 12,000 self-employed people.

If you're self-employed you can get a grant through the 'Coronavirus Self-employed Income Support Scheme' to claim 80% of your earnings (capped at £2500 per month), if you earn less than £50,000 a year, and more than half of your income is form self-employment. You do not need to do anything to claim the grant – HMRC will contact all eligible people to apply online.

HMRC is using previously filed tax returns to work out your earnings, so If you have not submitted your Income Tax Self-Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018-19, you must do this by 23 April 2020.

The financial support covers 3 months until May, but may not be available until June, so you can still benefit from other support in the meantime:

If you're a director of your own company and paid through PAYE you may be able to get support using the Job Retention Scheme.

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City of York Council Emegency Eund

We've set aside a £1m local emergency fund to support businesses dealing with the impacts of coronavirus. The fund will target a range of support at around 1000 small and micro-firms, who will not benefit from government support packages.

We're working closely with partners to make sure the fund delivers the most effective support. Full details will be announced soon.

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Help if you're not already receiving benefits

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Advice for business paying tax

VAT payments for all UK businesses will be deferred from 20 March 2020 until 30 June 2020. If you’re self-employed, Income Tax payments due in July 2020 under the Self-Assessment system will be deferred to January 2021.

Taxpayers will be given until the end of the 2020 to 2021 tax year to pay any liabilities that have accumulated during the deferral period. VAT refunds and reclaims will be paid by the government as normal.

HMRC have also scaled up their Time to Pay offer to all firms and individuals who are in temporary financial distress as a result of Covid-19 and have outstanding tax liabilities.

If you run a business or are self-employed, and you're concerned about paying your tax due to coronavirus, call HMRC’s Tax helpline to support businesses; telephone: 0800 0159 559.

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Food businesses advice

The government has prepared some advice for food businesses and introduced legislation to allow pubs and restaurants to operate as takeaways.

We have some advice for food businesses introducing food takeaway and delivery options.

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Support with wages/job protection

The government has announced cover up to 80% (to a cap of £2500 per month) of wages of workers who would otherwise lose their jobs as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, all UK employers will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary for those employees that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis.

You will need to:

  • designate affected employees as ‘furloughed workers,’ and notify your employees of this change - changing the status of employees remains subject to existing employment law and, depending on the employment contract, may be subject to negotiation
  • submit information to HMRC about the employees that have been furloughed and their earnings through a new online portal (HMRC will set out further details on the information required)

HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month.

As soon as HMRC’s processes and timescales are in place, we will update York businesses.

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Business rates and grants

The Government has pledged to provide an initial £20 billion of business rates support and grant funding to help the most-affected firms manage their cashflow through this period.

The package includes:

  • 100% business rates holiday for 12 months for all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses
  • £25,000 grants to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with a rateable value over £15,000 and below £51,000
  • businesses eligible for Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) will receive a one-off £10,000 cash payment
  • £5,000 business rates discount for public houses (increased from £1,000)
  • public funding for creative organisations and individuals from the Arts Council

Business rates cancelled

We have cancelled over 4000 direct debits to stop hospitality, retail, leisure and nursery businesses making payments in April. The range of qualifying businesses has been extended to now include Estate Agents, Letting Agents, Bingo Halls,Betting Shops, Pawn Shops, Tutors and Casinos. We are telling businesses in those categories:

  • if you pay your business rates by cash, don’t
  • if you pay by standing order, cancel it
  • if we take a payment from you and you think you're an exempt business, contact us; we’ll pay you back straight away if we've made a mistake

Business grants

We distributing up to £30m of grant funding to around 3500 businesses. We've written to eligible businesses to ask you to provide your business, VAT registration, and current bank details via our secure eForm.

Apply for a business grant

See further information about business rates discounts and reliefs and further coronavirus information for businesses.

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Commitment to key suppliers

We're committed to supporting key suppliers facing difficulty due to Coronavirus. Our package could include:

  • paying those providing services to council and maintained schools, and bus providers for tendered routes and concessionary fares
  • paying in advance where possible, and for planned annual activity
  • exploring the potential for short-term loans

Suppliers should talk to their contract manager if they are facing hardship.

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Sick pay refunds

The government will enable employers with fewer than 250 employees to reclaim up to 2 weeks' Statutory Sick Pay that's been paid to employees absent from work because of COVID-19. You'll need to keep records of staff absences, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note.

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Rent support

We've deferred rent for 3 months for all our commercial tenants and written to inform them. We're also working with landlords in the city to make sure that all our businesses benefit from a considered and supportive approach.

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Government backed loans

A new Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme is available to support businesses to access up to £5m bank lending and overdrafts. Get details of the scheme, including eligibility criteria from the British Business Bank.

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Support and ideas for adapting business models

York’s businesses are creative and resilient, and also supporting each other. Talk to your representative or member organisations for support and ideas to adapt your business models.

There are a number of emerging tools and platforms you may find useful.

  • York Mix is offering a free slot on its #SupportAYorkBusiness platform.
  • York Press has launched a new campaign which will include free advertising slots for all SMEs.
  • Visit York is also updating its website with any food businesses which remain open
  • other platforms have been launched which may interest you, please note; we have not quality assured or investigated them but we will share anything that might help:
    • Orderfrom - a free tool allowing businesses to get online..
    • York High Street is also promising a platform for local businesses, but the website is not yet developed.

The York and North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership is sharing guidance as well as inspirational stories and guidance and diversification through the York and North Yorkshire Growth Hub.

Indie York is pulling together tips, ideas and good practice to support local businesses to adapt to the rapidly changing landscape and hopes to share them beyond its membership soon.

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Licence fee payments

Where we have discretion over licence fees we have agreed to a ‘fee holiday’ while restrictions are in place. We’re working through the details and will add information and contact all affected licencees as soon as possible.

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Listening to businesses

We're working with York BID, Make it York, the LEPs and other representative groups to understand what support is needed reduce the impact of Covid-19 (Coronavirus).

Complete a survey to help us assess the impact on businesses and represent your interests nationally,as the government considers further measures.

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Offers of support

York businesses are unsurprisingly showing the very best of our city. Alongside the incredible innovation and commitment to staff, lots of businesses are offering their services and support to the wider efforts to keep fighting coronavirus in York, in particular, hotels and other organsations are offering accommodation for key workers - thank you so much!

Email:& economicgrowth@york.gov.uk if you'd like to offer your support or service.

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Beware of scammers

Our Trading Standards Team have become aware of scams relating to COVID-19, which take advantage of disruption, and more people being home to answer their telephones.

You should:

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Social distancing

Businesses and employers should introduce social distancing measures, to reduce interaction between people, and help to reduce the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19), ultimately saving lives. Read the current government advice about working from home wherever possible.

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Further coronavirus information for businesses

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Also see