Delay and problems with grant scheme may exacerbate dire circumstances for many companies, says Muir

The delay and problems in launching the portal for hospitality, tourism, retail and leisure businesses to apply for a grant means some companies will be in even more dire circumstances, Alliance Finance spokesperson Andrew Muir MLA has said.

Mr Muir was speaking as the portal, allowing such businesses to apply for £25,000 aid, was launched by the Department for the Economy. However, the website has seen a number of problems, crashing several times already.

“It is welcome this portal has now eventually opened but efforts must be made to ensure the website remains stable after it crashed a number of times. Many are rightly asking what went on over the last number of weeks resulting in the delayed and then failed launch of the portal whilst HMRC were today able to successfully process 67,000 furlough claims in the first 30 minutes,” said the North Down MLA.

“But the delays in launching the latest grant scheme are not acceptable and means many businesses will now be in even more dire circumstances than they were at the start of this crisis. Similar grants have already been paid out in Scotland, for example. This scheme was announced over a month ago and was meant to help with running costs and cover a company’s payroll before the launch of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme was up and running. Ironically, it has now launched on the same day.

“It is therefore essential payments are made promptly – certainly quicker than the current Departmental commitment of 15 working days. Delays associated with the £10,000 Small Business Support Grants must also be addressed, with many still waiting on monies or unable to apply if rates are paid to a landlord as part of their rent. If there is an issue of resources, there is then a need to redeploy staff and if that is not possible, then look at other options, including utilising furloughed employees in the private sector. The future of many companies depends upon it.”