As I write, it’s hard to tell if we’re still in the thick of COVID-19 or on the way out. Either way, it’s important for businesses to stay on top of what support is available from the Government now and for the next few months.
In December, the South East of England, the Home Counties and London are being particularly hard-hit by the new variant of the virus.
At the same time, more than half a million people have already received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine and the Oxford one doesn’t seem far away.
One little hint as to when we can probably expect things to be back to normal came in the form of a sneaky announcement from the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, on 17 December.
He quietly extended the furlough scheme, previously scheduled to wind up on 31 March 2021, so that it will be in place until the end of April.
That, along with various statements from scientists and ministers, has to make you think they’re reasonably confident of business returning to something like normal by the beginning of May.
In the same announcement, he also confirmed that the various loan schemes will all be extended until 31 March.
It’s also worth noting that in an earlier announcement, the Chancellor said firms which took out a small bounce-back loan earlier in 2020 can now top it up to the £50,000 limit.
While I wouldn’t encourage anyone to take out government-backed loans if they don’t need them – come on, play fair! – the bounce-back loan scheme in particular could be really helpful in easing cashflow issues for SMEs.
It might also help you get your business ready to deal with what I reckon is going to be a period of fairly tight lockdown through January and February 2021.
It’s worth noting, too, that the Government has promised a new loan scheme to support businesses in the long recovery phase after spring 2021.
At the end of the day, we’re all business people, and we want to be doing business and paying our own way, not relying on handouts. Anything that helps us forge ahead has to be a good thing.
Support for the self-employed
Back in November, the Chancellor backtracked on his decision to reduce the level of support available through the self-employed income support scheme (SEISS).
The third grant, covering November 2020 to January 2021, will give self-employed people access to a taxable lump sum representing 80% of three months’ average monthly trading profits, capped at £7,500.
We’re still waiting to see what the fourth grant, covering the final stretch up to April 2021, might look like.
There’s still no support for about three million self-employed directors who couldn’t furlough themselves and weren’t eligible for the SEISS.
I’m keeping an eye on developments there, though, because there’s plenty of smart campaigning, some interesting policy ideas about.
There’s even a suggestion that supermarkets, which have had a bumper year, could help cover this cost.
For advice on getting access to government support for business and support with business planning for 2021, get in touch.