Harlow Council distributes £33m in grants and payments to businesses and residents


Harlow Council staff are continuing to process and pay out government grants to eligible businesses and make payments to residents affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As of today, £32m in grants have been processed and distributed to those business that have applied and were eligible for grants since the first national lockdown last March. A further £1.35m will be paid out to 255 businesses this week bringing the total business support so far to over £33m.

This financial support includes business rate relief, small business grants, retail hospitality and leisure grants, discretionary grants, local restriction grants, additional restrictions discretionary grants, Christmas support for pubs and new lockdown closed payments.

As well as supporting businesses, council staff have also issued a further £820,000 in hardship payments to 6,260 households claiming council tax support and issued 133 test and trace payments totalling £66,500 to residents who have had to self-isolate at home.

By the end of this week over £34m would have been paid out to support businesses and residents.

The following provides more information about recent payments made to business, new grant schemes, how we process applications, why some businesses are not eligible for support and where further information and advice can be found:

Recent payments to businesses

In relation to the various Tier restrictions that have been in place since the end of October a total of 580 payments to 265 businesses totalling £1,100,375 has been paid out in local restriction support grant and additional restriction support grants up to 28 January 2021.

As a consequence of the numerous changes to restrictions in the period from 5 December 2020 – 5 January 2021, and the Christmas holiday closures, staff continue to work through a backlog of grant applications and the council apologises to any business still waiting to hear if their application has been approved.

The council currently has 171 applications for local restriction and addition restriction support grants waiting to be reviewed which were submitted either just before Christmas or since the start of January. In addition we have 99 applications where we have either requested additional information to support the application or are currently working through the additional information we have recently received back to determine eligibility. We continue to prioritise the processing of outstanding applications to help support businesses.

From tomorrow we will issue new lockdown closed grants for businesses that have been forced (mandated) to close in the national lockdown from 5 January 2021 to 255 businesses totalling £1,357,000 with payments expected to in bank accounts on Friday. These are one-off top up grants and are automatically paid to businesses which receive a local restriction Support Grant. There is no need to make a separate application for these payments.

To date, we have also paid out £1,000 wet-led pub grants to 10 premises which have applied. One further application is being assessed and processed. A total of £19,200 has been provided to the council and reminder emails have been sent out to those pubs who have not yet replied. The closing date for these grants has been extended to 28 February 2021.

Other new grants

Business Adaption Grants – grants to help premises adapt their businesses for when they reopen is open for applications. These grants can be used to purchase outdoor seating, shelter and lighting to trade outdoors or to provide protective screens and barriers to keep customer and staff safe. These grants are only for micro, small and medium-sized businesses which have fixed property related costs and was open and trading on 4 November 2020 and has either been required to close or been severely impacted by the restrictions imposed.

We have also received over £2m additional restrictions grant funding which is to fund grants up to 31 March 2022 and are reviewing our policy so we can use this funding to support businesses coming out of the pandemic.

How we process applications

When issuing taxpayers’ money to businesses the council must quite rightly follow the government guidance. This is something we take very seriously and for each grant scheme we have a system in place to ensure that the right businesses get the right amount of money. We are sorry that in some cases it can take longer to process applications than others when additional checks or further evidence to support individual applications is required. Before Christmas there were some delays in setting up processes and software simply due to the numerous new support grants announced by the Government. In response we have put extra resources and support in place to help our staff check applications, process grants and make payments as quickly as possible. Staff are prioritising the payment of grants and will respond to individual enquiries as quickly as they can.

We expect further support grants will follow from the government and we will do everything we can to make sure that these grants are available to businesses as soon as possible. We recognise how important it is that business and residents get the financial support they need and are entitled to.

Information on all the grants and how to apply can be found on our website www.harlow.gov.uk/coronavirus/businesses

Businesses not eligible for support

Unfortunately not all businesses are eligible for grants under the various current national schemes and even our discretionary schemes have to follow government guidance. We are seeing an increase in the number of applications from people who are self-employed and who are not eligible for the Government’s business grants. Every business situation will be different, but mainly grants cannot be paid because the individual does not have any business premises or they work within people’s homes and do not have any ongoing business costs. Government guidance is clear that these grants are not to support a loss in income or wages and that schemes should be used to support the ongoing business costs. The government has provided a self-employed income support scheme to assist in these circumstances as well as loan schemes and individuals can claim universal credit at www.gov.uk

Independent business advice

There is local and national help available for any small businesses or self-employed businesses who require further support and advice:

Chris Chapman, Business Advisor at Harlow Enterprise Hub – www.nwes.org.uk 01279 311400

South East Business Hub – www.southeastbusiness.org.uk 0300 303 4864

Harlow Chamber of Commerce – www.harlowchamber.co.uk

Federation of Small Businesses – www.fsb.org.uk 0808 20 20 888

Share this: