Taxi drivers could be in line for fresh Omicron coronavirus financial support after the Chancellor today announced a £100million discretionary fund to support sectors who supply the hospitality and leisure sectors.
The rise of the Omicron variant has meant some businesses are likely to struggle over the coming weeks. The Government is now providing one-off grants of up to £6,000 per premises for businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors in England.
At what is often their most profitable time of year, many pubs and restaurants have seen cancellations and reduced footfall as people have responded to the rise in cases ahead of Christmas, with Hospitality UK reporting that many businesses have lost 40-60% of their December trade, often their most profitable month.
Around 200,000 businesses will be eligible for business grants which will be administered by local authorities and will be available in the coming weeks.
Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, said: “We recognise that the spread of the Omicron variant means businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors are facing huge uncertainty, at a crucial time.
“So we’re stepping in with £1billion of support, including a new grant scheme, the reintroduction of the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme and further funding released through the Culture Recovery Fund.
“Ultimately the best thing we can do to support businesses is to get the virus under control, so I urge everyone to Get Boosted Now.”
To support other businesses impacted by Omicron – such as those who supply the hospitality and leisure sectors – the Government is also giving a more than £100million boost to the Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) fund for local authorities in England.
Local Authorities will have discretion to allocate this funding to businesses most in need. The ARG top up will be prioritised for those local authorities that have distributed the most of their existing allocation. This is on top of the £250million of previously allocated funding that remains with local authorities.
A Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association spokesperson said: “The Chancellor has announced an Additional Grant (ARG) to be allocated, at their discretion, by local authorities, to support businesses impacted by Omicron.
“We are contacting local authorities and Treasury for detail and to make a case for taxis.”
As an increasing number of COVID-19 cases means more workers are also taking time off work, the Government is also reintroducing the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme (SSPRS).
The SSPRS will help small and medium-sized employers – those with fewer than 250 employees – by reimbursing them for the cost of Statutory Sick Pay for COVID-related absences, for up to 2 weeks per employee. Firms will be eligible for the scheme from today and they will be able to make claims retrospectively from mid-January.
To provide continued support to the cultural sector, £30million further funding will be made available through the Culture Recovery Fund to support organisations such as theatres, orchestras and museums through the winter to March 2022.
This figure will build on nearly £240million of cultural grant support already allocated this financial year or currently available for organisations to bid for.
Over the course of the pandemic the UK Government has provided nearly £2billion to support our vital cultural sector, with the original £1.57billion round of the Culture Recovery Fund announced in July 2020.
The UK Government is working closely with counterparts in the devolved administrations and businesses across all parts of the UK.
As part of this support announced today, the devolved administrations will receive around £150 million of funding through the Barnett formula, comprising around £80million for the Scottish Government, £50million for the Welsh Government and £25million for the Northern Ireland Executive.
This contributes towards the £860million of further funding announced by the UK Government in the last week to support the devolved administrations, allowing them to provide additional support to businesses in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as they see fit.
These additional measures will reinforce the existing package of business support, including:
business rates relief meaning that the majority of businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors will see a 75% reduction in their business rates bill across the entire financial year and a new 50% capped business rates relief next financial year;
a 12.5% reduced rate of VAT for hospitality and tourism to support the cash flow and viability of around 150,000 businesses and protect over 2.4 million jobs, until the end of March;
the £1.5 billion Covid Additional Relief Fund for businesses that have not previously had business rates support;
businesses will be protected from eviction if they are behind on rent on their premises, thanks to the moratorium in place until March 2022;
access to finance for SMEs through the Recovery Loan Scheme to June; and
Bounce Back Loan repayment flexibility, with borrowers having the option to take a 6 month repayment holiday, three 6 month interest only periods or extend their loan to 10 years, which almost halves the monthly payment.
support for the aviation and travel sectors, including over £12 billion since the beginning of the pandemic, and the Airport and Ground Operations Support Scheme (AGOSS) until the end of March 2022.
HMRC stand ready to support any business impacted by the coronavirus pandemic through its Time to Pay arrangement, and the Chancellor has asked them to offer businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors in particular the option of a short delay, and payment in instalments, on a case by case basis, as part of this.