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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Business Support - City of York Council bulletin 23 March

Published Monday, 23 March 2020

Things are moving very quickly. We are collating and sharing information as quickly as possible to protect businesses, the services they provide and the jobs they support.

This business support update bulletin includes:

  • new government advice
  • information for the self-employed and businesses with immediate cashflow difficulties
  • details of new lobbying efforts by the council and partners on behalf of the self-employed
  • information about support from the local media

See further information for businesses:

Immediate support

The council is doing everything we can to process the support announced by the government, and we have updated the information below to include all the details of the support announced on Friday. This includes tax, support with wages and access to support for the self-employed.

We are trying to make sure businesses in the hospitality, retail or leisure - and now nurseries – do not pay any business rates. We are amending around 4000 direct debits, and telling qualifying businesses:

  • if you by pay cash, don’t
  • if you pay by standing order, cancel it

The government grants and wage payments are not immediately available. We are setting up a new grant payment process from scratch, which is likely to involve the council administering around £10m in grant funding, while early indications are that HMRC could take well into April to be in a position to deliver the 80% wage payments.

So the quickest way to relieve immediate cashflow problems are:

1) Talk to your landlord

We’ll always talk to any business in one of our properties about support paying rent.  We’re talking to landlords across the city to encourage them to take the same approach as we are with our commercial tenants.

2) Talk to your bank about government backed loans

A new Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme has been announced to support businesses to access up to £5m bank lending and overdrafts. Full details of the scheme, including eligibility criteria, will be available on the British Business Bank website as soon as it is launched.

This will be the quickest and most efficient way to get cash into your business, even if it’s just while you wait for other government support to be processed. 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.

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Help if you’re self-employed

We’re lobbying the government for further support for the 12,000 self-employed people in York, including sending a letter to the Government today. Until further packages are announced, there is some additional support available:

  • For Income Tax Self-Assessment, payments due on the 31 July 2020 will be deferred until the 31 January 2021. You do not have to do anything – this is automatically applied.
  • If you have to take time off work and you don't get paid while you're off, you might be entitled to claim benefits. If you're already claiming benefits, you might get more money.
  • If you already get benefits like Tax Credits or Housing Benefit, tell the office paying you that you can't work because you're sick. You might be entitled to more money while you're off work.
  • If you are already receiving benefits

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Help if you're not already receiving benefits

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses

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Council emergency fund

We have also announced we will create our own emergency fund to support residents, businesses and communities. This will be one of a range of measures we’re looking at to support people through these uniquely challenging times. Full details of this fund will be announced soon.

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Signposting to support

We want to make sure your business can access all the support available. 

There have been many national announcements, and we expect many more both nationally and locally.

We have detailed all the support below, and will update www.york.gov.uk/BusinessSupport with the latest information as it happens.

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Social distancing

All businesses and employers are recommended to introduce social distancing measures. These are steps you can take to reduce the social interaction between people which will help to reduce the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19), ultimately saving lives. Read the current government advice, which includes recommendations for people to work from home wherever possible.

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Support with wages / job protection

The government has announced that it will 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 £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
  • 100% business rates holiday for all nurseries, based on premises which are:
    • occupied by providers on Ofsted’s Early Years Register
    • wholly or mainly used for the provision of the Early Years Foundation Stage
  • £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)

We know that acting quickly is essential to support cash flow and protect jobs. We are working hard to make sure this support gets to those who need it as quickly as possible. This includes updating over 4000 business rates accounts by the end of this week, and trying to stop any direct debits for qualifying businesses.

At the same time, we’re developing a new process to distribute the grants while we await further government guidance on how to administer them.

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

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Government-backed loans

A new Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme launched today to support businesses to access up to £5m bank lending and overdrafts. Full details of the scheme, including eligibility criteria, are available on the British Business Bank website.

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Beware of scammers

Trading Standards have become aware of a number of scams relating to COVID-19. They are taking advantage of disruption and the fact that more people are at home to answer their phones. Please be careful before handing over any money, especially if the person is not known to you.

We are aware that fake HMRC scams are circulating. If you are a business wanting advice please see: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19

Things to remember:

  • Be suspicious about any email or telephone calls you receive out of the blue, especially if anyone is asking you for money or personal information.
  • Before making any purchases, do your research and ask a friend/family member to help if you can
  • Be suspicious of anyone who wants you make an immediate purchase – most genuine traders will be happy to let you think about it.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

If you would like any further information on scams please visit the Action Fraud Website: https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/

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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.
  • Other platforms have been launched over the weekend which may interest you, noting; we have not quality assured or investigated them but we will share anything that might help:
  • www.yorkhighstreet.com is also promising a platform for local businesses, but the website is not yet developed.

Please let us know about other useful tools and we’ll attempt to share them.

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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Food businesses advice

The council has prepared a letter with specific advice for the city’s food businesses. The government is also set to introduce legislation to allow pubs and restaurants to operate as takeaways. For the full range of advice, guidance and access to training please visit our food safety pages

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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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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.

For access to all information relating to coronavirus, from what to do if an employee becomes unwell to health and safety advice from ACAS, visit www.york.gov.uk/BusinessSuppor

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Listening to businesses

The council is working with York BID, Make it York, the LEPS and other representative groups to listen to our business community and understand what other support we might be able to offer to reduce the impact of Covid-19 (Coronavirus).

Make it York will distribute a survey for all the city’s businesses in the next couple of days. Please make sure you complete it so we have the best insight to develop future support, and represent your interests nationally, particularly as the government considers further measures.

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Offers of support

Our business community is unsurprisingly showing the very best of our city. Alongside the incredible innovation and commitment to your staff, we’re getting lots of businesses offering their services and support to the wider efforts to keep fight coronavirus in York. In particular, hotels and other organsations are offering accommodation for key workers. Thank you so much. Please email economicgrowth@york.gov.uk if you would like to offer your support or service.

We will issue another update whenever there is important news or information to share.

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