Coronavirus Support for Businesses

CoronavirusSt Helens Chamber Business Support

St Helens Chamber is here to support local businesses. For advice and assistance please call us on 01744 742444 or 01744 742087, or email

Members of St Helens Chamber also have access to Chamber Protect - a dedicated support line to help with HR, Health & Safety Legal and Tax issues. If you are a Chamber Member you can contact the advice line on 01455 852037.

Social Distancing in the Workplace

The government has set out its plan to return life to as near normal as we can, for as many people as we can, as quickly and fairly as possible in order to safeguard livelihoods. Click here for a free downloadable PDF with information on how social distancing and other measures might be implemented by employers in England to help protect their workforce and customers from coronavirus while still continuing to trade.

Government Assistance

The Chancellor has announced a range of measures to support businesses as part of the Government's emergency response to the Coronavirus outbreak. Click here for a free downloadable PDF with information on business support available from the Government, and what steps to take next.

Additional grants and fully funded programmes

A number of organisations have launched funding programmes to assist local businesses in responding to the challenges of the Coronavirus outbreak. Click here for links to of all funding programmes across the UK.

Discretionary Top Up Grant Scheme

A discretionary fund has been set up to accommodate certain small businesses previously outside the scope of the business grant funds.

This is a government scheme with limited funds that will be delivered on a first come, first-served basis. Applications will be counted as submitted once 100% completed and all the correct and required supporting documentation is submitted. Applications close on 17th July.

To qualify for the Discretionary Top Up Scheme, businesses must be a small or ‘micro’ business, meaning they employ less than 50 people; have a turnover of less than £10.2m each year or a balance sheet total of less than £5.1m a year.

The scheme has been split into three key application areas:
1. Business Support Grant - An eligible business that meets one of the following criteria:

(a) does not pay rates direct to the council but has an ongoing (more than six month) fixed property cost as evidenced by a mortgage, lease or rental agreement of less than £51,000 per annum.

(b) currently pays business rates and has a rateable value of less than £51,000 per annum and has been ineligible for previous COVID-related business grant schemes.

2. Voluntary Sector Support Grant - An eligible organisation that has an ongoing (more than six month) fixed property cost as evidenced by a mortgage, lease or rental agreement, the organisation is in receipt of charitable mandatory business rates relief, the property has a rateable value of £51,000 or less, and the organisation has been ineligible for previous COVID-related business grant schemes.

3. Bed & Breakfast Support Grant - An eligible business has an ongoing (more than six month) property cost as evidenced by a mortgage, lease or rental agreement, and the business is a bed and breakfast establishment that pays Council Tax not Business Rates.

Find out more here

Statutory Sick Pay

Small businesses and employers across the UK who have paid statutory sick pay to staff taking coronavirus-related leave will be able to claim back the money.

The scheme allows small and medium sized employers, with fewer than 250 members of staff, to apply to recover the costs of paying coronavirus-related Statutory Sick Pay for two weeks - worth nearly £200 per employee.

The new online service is being run by HMRC, and after making an application employers will receive the money within six working days.

To get the rebate, employers will need to go online and input simple information on the employees being claimed for.

The service can be accessed here.

Bounce Back Loan

The Bounce Back Loan scheme is designed to help small and medium-sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000.

Loan terms will be up to 6 years. The government will guarantee 100% of the loan and no repayments, interest or fees will be due during the first 12 months.

The government will work with lenders to agree a low rate of interest for the remaining period of the loan. The scheme will be delivered through a network of accredited lenders which will be announced soon.

You cannot apply if you’re already claiming under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS). If you’ve already received a loan of up to £50,000 under CBILS and would like to transfer it into the Bounce Back Loan scheme, you can arrange this with your lender until 4 November 2020.

£10,000 Grant to Small Businesses that pay little or no Business Rates

There will be a £10,000 grant to small firms eligible for Small Business Rate Relief or Rural Rate Relief. This is being delivered by Local Authorities and worth a total of £7.6 billion. If your business is eligible for SBRR or Rural Rate relief the local authority will contact you.

Local authorities have already started paying grants to businesses.

If you have not received your application form or you have any questions, please email

Support for self-employed through the Self-employment Income Support Scheme

The Government has issued updated guidance on the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.

The Scheme will provide a grants to self-employed individuals or partnerships. The first grant allows you to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of your average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering 3 months’ worth of profits, and capped at £7,500 in total.

Eligible individuals will be able to claim a final grant in August. The grant will be worth 70% of an individual’s monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering three months’ worth of profits, and capped at £6,570 in total.

Individuals can continue to apply for the first SEISS grant until 13th July.

The eligibility criteria are the same for both grants, and individuals will need to confirm that their business has been adversely affected by coronavirus. An individual does not need to have claimed the first grant to receive the second grant: for example, they may only have been adversely affected by COVID-19 in this later phase. Further guidance on the second grant will be published later this month.

If you’re eligible and your claim is approved you will have the money paid into your bank account within six working  days of completing a claim.

To check if you’re eligible to make a claim you can use the online tool. Your tax agent or adviser can also use the online tool on your behalf.

You’ll need your:

- Self Assessment Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) number - if you do not have this find out how to get your lost UTR number

- National Insurance number - if you do not have this find out how to get your lost National Insurance number

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

All employers – small or large, charitable or non-profit - will be eligible for the scheme.

Employers will be able to contact HMRC for a grant to cover most of the wages of people who are not working, but are furloughed and kept on payroll, rather than being laid off. Government grants will cover part of the salary of retained workers up to a total of £2,500 a month. This can be backdated to March 1st and has been extended until the end of October.

Throughout June and July, the Government will pay 80% of furloughed employees’ wages, up to a maximum of £2,500. However, from the 1st July, Flexible Furlough will begin, allowing businesses to bring furloughed employees back on a part-time basis. The Government will continue to pay 80% of wages for the number of hours each employee is furloughed.

From the 1st August, the Government has committed to continue to pay the 80% of furloughed employee’s salaries (up to £2,500), however, employers will have to meet the cost of Employer’s National Insurance Contributions and pension contributions.

During September, employers will be required to contribute to the furlough claim of its employees. The Government will pay 70% of wages (capping at £2,187.50) whilst employers will be required to pay national insurance contributions and pension contributions, as well as 10% of wages to make up the 80% total (capped at £2,500).

October is the final month of the scheme and the Government will pay 60% of wages, up to a cap of £1,875. Employers will pay national insurance contributions and pension contributions, and 20% of wages to make up the 80% total (capped at £2,500)

10th June will be the last day on which an employee can be furloughed for the first time in order that they can complete the minimum three week period before the scheme closes to new entrants.
The scheme will close to all other entrants on 30th June.

Employers who bring furloughed staff back to work until at least the end of January 2021 could receive a one-off government payment of £1,000 for each employee kept in work. In the time between CJRS ending to the end of January, this work must be continuous, and employees’ average pay must exceed the lower earnings limit of £520 a month.

When making your claim you must have:

  • created and started a PAYE payroll scheme on or before 19 March 2020
  • enrolled for PAYE online
  • a UK bank account

Any entity with a UK payroll can apply, including businesses, charities, recruitment agencies and public authorities.

To make a claim, click here

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

The interest-free period for the Business Interruption Loan Scheme has been extended from six to twelve months. The scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank and its accredited lenders, will enable businesses to apply for a Government guaranteed loan of up to £5m, with the government covering up to 80% of any bank losses due to default with no fees or guarantee premium (subject to a per lender cap on claims).

The scheme is now open for applications. To apply, you should talk to your bank or one of the 40 accredited finance providers offering the scheme (and not the British Business Bank) as soon as possible to discuss your business plan with them. Businesses will need to present a viable business application.

Click here for FAQs for SMEs: Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)

The Chamber can help you with your financial forecasting - please contact John Woods on

Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS)

The Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) will ensure that more firms are able to benefit from government-backed support during this difficult time. It will provide a government guarantee of 80% to enable banks to make loans of up to £200 million to firms with an annual turnover of between £45 million and £500 million.

Loans backed by a guarantee under CLBILS will be offered at commercial rates of interest,  full details can be found at the British Business Bank

Deferral of  VAT payments

The Chancellor has announced that he is deferring the next quarter of VAT payments, meaning no businesses will pay any VAT from now until the end of June; and you will have until the end of the financial year to repay those bills.

Businesses need to take steps to reinstate their direct debit mandates so that they are in place in time for payments due in July 2020 onwards. Any outstanding returns should be filed and three working data should be allowed to elapse before reinstating the direct debit mandate.

Support for the self-employed

Self-employed people can now access Universal Credit at a rate equivalent to Statutory Sick Pay for employees. In addition, the next self-assessment payments will be deferred until January 2021.

School funding

The Department of Education has announced new funding for state-funded schools to cover Coronavirus-related extra costs between March and the end of the summer term in July.

The funding is aimed at covering additional costs incurred in keeping schools open over Easter, but it won’t be paid to schools until the 2020-21 financial year. It is aimed at covering costs, such as cleaning and other premises related costs, and covers the period up to the end of the 2019-2020 summer term.

Funding is available to cover costs relating to:
- increased premises related costs (including utilities and resources needed to keep the school open, such as hygiene services)
- support for free school meals for eligible children who are not attending school, where those costs are not covered by the national voucher scheme
- additional cleaning – required due to confirmed or suspected coronavirus

Schools are not eligible to make a claim against this fund if they expect to add to their existing historic surpluses in their current financial year (September 2019 to August 2020 for academies and April 2020 to March 2021 for maintained schools).

Schools have until 21 July 2020 to submit an application form. There will be no opportunity to request an extension to the deadline. Apply here

VAT cut and Eat Out to Help Scheme

The Chancellor has announced that VAT will be cut from 20% to 5% for spends in the hospitality and tourism sector, alongside a new Eat Out to Help Out Scheme.

VAT cut

From 15th July until 12th January, VAT on food, accommodation and attractions will be cut from 20% to 5%.

The Chancellor said the tax cut would apply to eat-in or hot takeaway food from restaurants, cafés and pubs, accommodation in hotels, B&Bs, campsites and caravan sites, as well as cinemas, theme parks and zoos. This excludes the sale of alcohol.

Click here to check if you can temporarily reduce the rate of VAT on supplies relating to hospitality, accommodation, or admission to certain attractions.

Eat Out to Help Out Scheme

The Eat Out to Help Out Scheme will provide a 50% reduction for sit-down meals in participating cafes, restaurants and pubs from Monday to Wednesday every week throughout August 2020.

Each diner can claim the discount up to £10 per head. Businesses will then claim the money back from the government.

You can register your restaurant or establishment for the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme on 13th July by clicking here

Apprenticeship support funding

The government will introduce a new payment of £2,000 to employers in England for each new Apprentice they hire aged under 25, and a £1,500 payment for each new Apprentice they hire aged 25 and over, from 1st August 2020 to 31st January 2021.

These payments will be in addition to the existing £1,000 payment the government already provides for new 16 to 18 year-old Apprentices, and those aged under 25 with an Education, Health and Care Plan - employers could receive up to £3,000 for hiring 16 to 18 year old Apprentices from August to January.

If you would like to register your interest in St Helens Chamber Apprenticeships, please contact our Workforce Development Team at

Kickstarter Scheme

The government has unveiled a new Kickstart Scheme to help young people secure jobs.

The Kickstart Scheme will help those aged between 16 to 24. The fund will subsidise six-month work placements for people on Universal Credit in the age group who are at risk of long-term unemployment.

The jobs must be new, additional jobs, with a minimum of 25 hours per week. Funding will be available for each six-month job placement and will cover 100% of the National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week – employers will be able to top this wage up.

If you would like to register your interest in employing a young person, please contact our Workforce Development Team at

Additional measures

  • Statutory sick pay relief package for SME's
  • Business rates abolished for this year for businesses in hospitality, retail, leisure and nurseries
  • The HMRC Time To Pay Scheme
  • For businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors, with a rateable value over £15,001 and below £51,000, you will be eligible for a cash grant of up to £25,000 per business
  • NB There may be some variations to the above measures among devolved nations. For example, business rates relief in Northern Ireland is for three months only

Additional grants and fully funded programmes

Future Innovation Fund

£3m Future Innovation Fund pilot programme has been established by the Metro Mayor to support Liverpool City Region’s small and medium sized enterprise community. The fund aims to incentivise SMEs to innovate, adapt and diversify in response to the challenges and opportunities presented by the pandemic and its associated impacts on the economy and society.

To find out if you are eligible, email

Business Resilience Support for SME's

In order to respond to the economic challenges our City Region businesses are facing, BDO LLOP have extended their contract to continue to deliver a pro-active programme of engagement, advice and support with SME's across Liverpool City Region over the next few weeks focusing primarily on COVID-19 related issues.

The aim of this work is to ensure that businesses across Liverpool City Region have access to professional advisory support to aid them through the challenges they are facing due to COVID-19.

To find out if you are eligible, email

Be the Business Mentoring

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, Be the Business has released a Rapid Response Cohort Mentoring Programme. This 12 week mentoring programme matches SME key decision makers with mentors from leaded firms who can help to explore the immediate impacts, be a good sounding board and assist in rebuilding business once the immediate crisis is over.

To find out if you are eligible, email

Click here for full details on all the Government support available

Click here for the latest advice and guidance from the British Chambers of Commerce

*Page last updated 9th July 2020*