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Coronavirus: What Help is Available To Small Businesses

The year of 2020 has been a roller-coaster for both businesses and people alike. Industries of all sizes across the UK have felt some sort of impact from the COVID-19 pandemic – with many facing tough decisions in order to survive through the lockdown.

If your business has been closed during the lockdown, now may be the perfect time to begin making strides to plan its reopening. Especially as restrictions are starting to be lifted – not just in the UK – but across the globe. Some business owners might look at this planning as risky or relying too heavily on luck – especially given the concern over a double-dip lockdown. But, the importance here is not in predicting the future or taking a chance – but planning for both possible outcomes and highlighting the risk involved.

Thankfully, there is support during this tough time for businesses from both the government and community. It’s important to take advantage of the brand loyalty you’ve been building and potentially gain support from your loyal customers or local community.

Government Business Support

If you’re a business based in the UK, there are a number of government support options that you may benefit from. Visit the gov.uk website here where you can browse the options available and find the solution that’s right for your business.

The government have brought out a number of loans, tax reliefs and cash grants available for businesses to apply for. Self-employed people can also receive up to £2,500 per month in grants for at least 3 months. To check if you’re eligible to apply click here.

For businesses with employees, the government are offering to pay up to 80% of their wage while staff go on furlough leave. This may be an essential service to restaurants, bars or shops that have been required to close until lockdown restrictions are eased. It may also keep your staff supported through the pandemic and mean they’re ready to return to work once the lockdown ends.

Also included on the gov.uk business support page, are measures on how to run your business safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes how to carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment and cleaning regulations for workplace safety. For more info on how to make your workplace COVID secure click here.

Will Business Insurance cover COVID-19?

Depending on the coverage you have, your business may be able to make a claim. With some businesses facing concerns about global supply and demand chains during the outbreak while others being forced to close due to government regulations – it has not been an easy time to be a business owner.

The government advises that if your business insurance covers both pandemics and government-ordered closures then you should be covered. You will need to read through the Terms & Conditions supplied by your provider to ensure you have coverage.

Look for a list of of specific diseases that are covered in your plan. COVID-19 has been labelled by the government as a ‘Notifiable Disease’, which means if your coverage plan includes these diseases (without a specific list), you may have cover in certain situations.

Unfortunately, standard business interruption insurance policies are dependant on damage to property and often exclude pandemics. It’s also important to note that, if you’ve suffered a reduction in customers due to COVID-19, it’s unlikely that you will be covered.

Is There Help With VAT and Tax?

Your business may be one that needs help with paying tax that it owes because of the COVID-19 pandemic. If this is the case, you can get in touch with HMRC, who have a new dedicated coronavirus helpline on 0800 0159 599.

The government also offers a VAT deferral scheme, which means no business will pay VAT between March 20, 2020 and June 30, 2020. This could possibly be vital to many businesses that are still in operation during the lockdown.

What About Business Loans?

The government have recently launched the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme aimed at small to medium-sized businesses (SMEs) to apply for a temporary loan, overdraft, invoice finance and asset finance (up to £5 million, for up to 6 years).

You may be eligible for Business Interruption Payment to cover the first 12 months of interest payments and any lender fees. The government will give lenders 80% guarantee on each loan (subject to pre-lender cap on claims). This option is also available to self-employed people.

You must meet certain criteria in order to apply for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. You must also show that COVID-19 has impacted on your business and be a UK-based business.

Similarly, the government also offers a Coronavirus Bounce Back Loan where you can borrow between £2,000 and £50,000 through a Bounce Back Loan scheme. The government will guarantee 100% of the loan and the first 12 months you will not have to pay any fees or interest, or make repayments.

Looking to the Local Community and your Loyal Customers

Many businesses are sceptical about asking for support from their local community or customers. On one hand it shows that your business is in a place of risk and on the other most of us already assume businesses are going through difficulty. What can your business do to look for support from customers while maintaining a strong brand appearance?

Many businesses have began offering gift cards to spend once things return to “normal”. This could be a potential way to increase sales while your business is closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Others are increasing their social media presence and offering competitions to win prizes. By using this time to build a brand loyal fan-base, your business could have customers flocking to your doors after the end of lockdown.

Depending on your location, there may be options available for your business to get involved with their local community. Almost two-thirds of the UK population is planning to remain loyal to the local retailers who have kept households going during the lockdown.

With the travel ban imposed by governments across Europe, many households have become more aware of the businesses local to them. With proximity and convenience being of high importance for consumers, 53% of survey respondents claimed they would look to support local cafes, bars and restaurants post-lockdown.

This looks like good news for smaller businesses as consumers are more likely to support independent, local business over chain stores.

More Information

If you’re looking for additional help regarding your marketing efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic, check out our blog on What marketing means for your business right now. As Hutch is a digital marketing and design company based in the UK, we also offer free business marketing support.  Get in touch with us today to see how we can help support your business. 

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