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Helping our businesses work towards a brighter future

How, with a little slice of financial support, companies like this Newry-based pizzeria have all the right ingredients to get back to work

ROAD TO RECOVERY: Giueseppe Fallone’s La Dolce Vita Pizzeria restaurant 
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A business man here has been able to get over lockdown and put 70 per cent of staff at his pizza business back to work thanks to support from the UK Government. Giueseppe Fallone and his wife Fiona own La Dolce Vita Pizzeria restaurant in O’Hagan Street, Newry, as well as takeaway outlets in Patrick Street in the city and in Warrenpoint and Camlough.

He is particularly pleased that he has not had to make a single one of his 130 staff redundant and is now feeling optimistic about the future. Giueseppe is one of countless businesses that have survived thanks to UK Government support schemes, which include government backed loans and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, also known as furloughing. Giueseppe, whose father came to Northern Ireland from Italy after the war and went into the fish and chip trade, said: “The restaurant closed on March 17 and the takeaways closed on March 20.”

Two main grants helped him get through the initial period when they had no turnover. Giueseppe said: “Stormont had the £10,000 grant and then there was the £25,000 grant for higher threshold rate payers. “But furlough has been the main one, a big saviour for the business.”

The £35,000 from the two UK Government grants helped keep the business afloat. Giueseppe said: “The government pause in the VAT payments and rates were also a big help. Our VAT bill was due in April so the government deferred our payments and we were able to use the money we had in our VAT account to pay the furlough wages.”

Taking the pressure off their VAT and rates bills has also allowed him to pay utility bills and finance on catering equipment, vehicles and software. He and his wife had been discussing starting cook-at-home pizza kits before the pandemic. As they were musing on how they could launch it, they had a call from O’Hare’s, a local supermarket chain, asking if they could offer the product. The finished product contains two 10-inch Dolcezza dough balls, freshly grated mozzarella, Tomato sauce and an instructional card with a YouTube link. Giueseppe said their outlets either make deliveries only or allow the public to queue in a socially distanced manner outside to collect orders placed online. They are not handling any cash. He said: “You can see it, week by week, getting back.”

What support is available to help companies across UK?

Here are some examples of the support available for businesses and workers.

  • The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has enabled businesses to put employees on a period of temporary leave (furlough) and apply for a UK Government grant to cover 80 per cent of those workers’ usual monthly wage costs, up to £2,500 a month.
  • The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme will allow eligible self-employed individuals to claim a taxable grant of 80 per cent of theiraverage monthly profits, up to £7,500.
  • UK VAT-registered firms have been given the option to defer VAT payments until the end of June. There will be no interest or penalties on any amount deferred.
  • Commercial tenants who cannot pay their rent because of coronavirus will be protected from eviction.
  • The UK Government’s Bounce Back Loans Scheme provides loans of up to £50,000 to small businesses, with a 100 per cent government-backed guarantee for lenders.
  • The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme is available for loans or finance of up to £5m. The UK Government will provide the lender with an 80 per cent guarantee to support the lending.
  • The Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme will repay employers the current rate of Statutory Sick Pay they pay current or former employees for sickness starting on or after March 13, 2020.
  • The Future Fund will issue loans between £125,000 to £5 million to innovative companies which are facing financing difficulties due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Furlough ‘crucial’ to ensure firm can thrive again

A social enterprise in Edinburgh which repairs used furniture and IT equipment and trains people with the skills to do so has launched a phased return to business after lockdown. The Edinburgh Remakery (pictured below), which suspended all services on March 24, started accepting donations of used IT equipment from June 4.

The organisation has asked for donations of laptops, tablets and mobile phones from individuals and businesses, and has put in place stringent hygiene and safety measures to allow for it. The equipment is given free of charge to those in the community, including homeless people, who are in need of it. The organisation also aims to reduce waste by repairing items rather than them being sent to landfill. Managing director Elaine Brown said the Remakery’s services are in greater need than ever because lack of access to public facilities means people are relying more on digital services.

Library closures have meant those without a laptop no longer have access to a shared computer. Others who may previously have been able to buy or repair their own IT equipment cannot due to reduced income.

While three staff members of the Remakery have been furloughed, the remaining three have been working during the lockdown to donate a total of 47 keyboards and mice, 41 PCs, 20 laptops, 12 tablets and six iMacs. Ms Brown said: “The furlough scheme was absolutely crucial to ourbusiness model to survive Covid. Without that, we would undoubtedly have faced immediate redundancy. It allowed us breathing space and it allowed us to retain our staff.”

While the organisation is receiving extra funding as a charity, the furlough scheme has been needed to plug the gap left by a lack of shop revenue.

The scheme has been extended until the end of October, and Ms Brown said some Remakery staff will remain on furlough until then, while others may come back on a part time basis.

The scheme pays workers 80 per cent of wages up to £2,500, but the Remakery is topping up the remaining 20 per cent of wages. Ms Brown said: “We always knew there was a need for us, we always knew there was digital isolation, but really Covid has intensified that and magnified the need. “We’re dealing with people who need the equipment for wellbeingneeds, because of isolation, and also the impact of families trying to homeschool children.

“These issues were probably always there, but Covid has definitely increased the need.”

The workshops and furniture repair normally run by the Remakery will remain suspended for the time being.

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