Business groups unite to ask Executive to ‘fill in COVID-19 funding gaps’

Twelve business groups from across Northern Ireland have united to ask the Executive to take action to fill in the gaps in the COVID-19 grant schemes which mean that many businesses and social enterprises across the region are not able to get the support they need.

In a letter issued to the Economy Minister, the Finance Minister and the Communities Minister, the dozen organisations which include 10 local chambers of commerce along with Enterprise NI who represent the region’s 28 Local Enterprise Agencies and Social Enterprise NI, the representative body for social enterprises and social entrepreneurs, suggest to the Ministers that the Executive should consider the establishment of an emergency support scheme to ensure that businesses not eligible for the grant schemes announced by the Executive do not fall through the cracks and remain unable to get assistance.

Commenting on the joint letter, Belfast Chamber Chief Executive Simon Hamilton said, “We completely recognise that our Executive have had to respond quickly to the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic is having upon our economy and that has resulted in some gaps in the grant scheme.  In coming together as organisations representing thousands of businesses and social enterprises located in all parts of our region, we are shining a spotlight on some of those gaps that have emerged because of the use of the rates system to deliver the grant scheme and asking the Executive to act so that businesses and social enterprises who urgently need support can access it.

“Amongst the gaps we have identified are the many entrepreneurs operating in serviced office accommodation and flexible workspaces as well as charities and social enterprises, both of whom have been excluded from the grant scheme because they don’t directly pay rates or are exempt from rates.  Businesses in flexible workspaces, social enterprises and others not initially included in the Executive’s grant scheme have been forced to close and cease trading and are seeing their work massively impacted by the coronavirus yet they aren’t eligible for the same support.  This is just not fair and needs to be addressed”.

Concluding, Colin Jess, Chief Executive of Social Enterprise NI said, “We have suggested to Ministers that, in order to fill these gaps, they consider the example set by their counterparts in Wales and introduce an emergency support scheme to allow those businesses and social enterprises that are not able to benefit from the grant scheme so that they too can get the support they need to deal with their cashflow problems.

“We absolutely understand the enormity of the challenge that our Executive faces.  We simply ask that Ministers act and ensure that no business or social enterprise who needs help to deal with the impact that COVID-19 is having upon them misses out”.

Gaps in the COVID-19 Grant Scheme