To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to provide support to those who have been ineligible for COVID-19 related financial support packages during the COVID-19 pandemic.
29 April 2021
Throughout the pandemic, the government has sought to protect people’s jobs and livelihoods while also supporting businesses and public services across the UK. To do this, the government has put in place an economic package of support which will provide businesses and individuals with certainty over the coming months, even as measures to prevent further spread of the virus change. The cumulative cost to the Government of this support since the start of the pandemic is £352 billion.
This support includes a new Restart Grant of up to £18,000 to over 680,000 business premises, giving them the cash certainty they need to plan ahead and safely relaunch trading over the coming months. Local authorities will also receive an additional £425 million of discretionary business grant funding under the Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG), on top of the £1.6 billion already allocated to allow them to support their local businesses. This means local authorities will have received over £2.1 billion of discretionary grant funding to support businesses which are not eligible for Restart Grants, but which are nonetheless experiencing a severe impact on their business due to public health restrictions.
In order to support businesses to retain their employees and protect the UK economy, the Chancellor has extended both the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) until September 2021. In Northern Ireland, the CJRS has supported more than 280,000 jobs since the scheme’s inception, and as of 31 January, the SEISS provided £570 million of support to self-employed individuals in Northern Ireland. The fourth and fifth SEISS grants are an estimated £13.5 billion of additional support, taking total support for the self-employed to over £33 billion. The Government has also announced a major improvement in access to the self-employed scheme. As the deadline for 2019-20 tax returns has now passed, HMRC will use these tax returns for the fourth and fifth grants, provided they were submitted by 2 March. This means more than 600,000 people, many of whom became self-employed in 2019-20, may now be able to claim the fourth and fifth grants, bringing the total number of people who could be eligible to 3.7 million.
Businesses have also received billions in loans, tax deferrals, Business Rate reliefs, and general and sector-specific grants. And individuals and families have benefited from increased welfare payments, enhanced statutory sick pay, a stay on repossession proceedings and mortgage holidays. But we must recognise that it will not be possible to preserve every job or business indefinitely, nor stand in the way of the economy adapting and people finding new jobs or starting new businesses. As measures to control the virus change, it is right that government support should also evolve. Because of this, we continue to take a flexible approach and keep all impacts and policies under review.