New Covid-19 hardship fund for micro businesses to open for applications

 Economy Minister Diane Dodds.
 Economy Minister Diane Dodds.

A new Covid-19 hardship fund for around 40,000 micro businesses and social enterprises in Northern Ireland opens for applications on Wednesday evening.

Up to £40 million has been allocated by the Executive for the new fund, which will offer an emergency grant of up to £10,000 for businesses unable to access other support measures.

Applications for two other support grants offering £10,000 and £25,000 will close for applications at 11.59pm on Wednesday night.

The Department for the Economy (DfE)  has said that in order to ensure that the £40m budget is not exceeded, the final amounts awarded will depend on the number of successful applications.

It is restricted to businesses with one to nine employees which can show at least a 40 per cent drop in turnover as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Funding will be capped at £5,000 for firms which don’t pay business rates.

Invest NI will administer the scheme, which is expected to open for applications from 6pm on Wednesday (May 20). Businesses can complete an eligibility checker ahead of the opening of the new portal.

DfE has said only one grant will be paid to each eligible business, irrespective of how many properties the business occupies.

DfE has established the following conditions:

  • The business must be based in Northern Ireland.
  • At 29 February 2020, the business must have employed between one and nine employees paid via PAYE except where the sole employee is the business owner or company director.  The number of employees will be based on headcount. 
  • Since 1 March 2020, the business must have experienced a reduction in turnover in excess of 40 per cent as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic or associated Government restrictions.

For eligible businesses which are social enterprises without charitable status, at least 60 per cent of their revenue must come from trade in goods and/or services.

Economy Minister Diane Dodds said: “The hardship fund will provide much-needed support to micro-businesses which have so far been unable to access other regional and national coronavirus support measures.

“This new fund should mean that over 40,000 businesses in Northern Ireland will have been eligible to apply for support under the Northern Ireland Covid-19 grant schemes.”

DfE confirmed that Invest NI will assess applications, undertake appropriate checks and process payments.