Discretionary fund for excluded businesses should be established, says Muir

A discretionary fund to help businesses excluded from grant support should be established to help some companies and sole traders navigate the financial difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Alliance MLA Andrew Muir has said.

The North Down MLA said confirmation a number of businesses had been excluded from the Micro-business Hardship Fund set up by the Department for the Economy meant further support was needed for such people and organisations unable to resume full trading until the restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 lockdown were lifted.

“It has now been confirmed a number of businesses, including sole traders, businesses in shared spaces, many bed and breakfasts, self-catering accommodation, and those excluded from other grant schemes because of their higher NAV are now not able to avail of both the Micro-business Hardship Fund and existing £10,000 and £25,000 grant schemes, which close today,” he said.

“This has left many both despondent and desperate for assistance in the knowledge without any help their business and livelihood could be gone.

“Earlier this month, the UK Government established a discretionary fund in England to accommodate certain small businesses previously outside the scope of the business grant funds schemes. The Scottish Government has also established a self-employed hardship fund for those unable to access the UK-wide self-employment income support scheme.

“I would urge the Department for the Economy to consider establishing similar schemes in Northern Ireland to help businesses who are otherwise being left high and dry. Social Enterprises with charitable status turned away from the Hardship Fund must also have their needs met, with the promised assistance from the Department of Communities progressed without delay.”