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I've not had a penny of help yet, says Lisburn restaurant boss

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Ed’s Bar and Grill in Lisburn, which is run by Frank and Angela Boyle

Ed’s Bar and Grill in Lisburn, which is run by Frank and Angela Boyle

Ed’s Bar and Grill in Lisburn, which is run by Frank and Angela Boyle

A business owner still waiting for government support says he is unable to cover the £10,000 a week wage bill for his workers.

Frank Boyle, who together with his wife employs more than 40 people in Lisburn, has been waiting three weeks for the small business grant - which would cover just one week's payroll.

More than £170m has been paid out since the scheme opened in Northern Ireland three weeks ago. But some businesses have faced delays.

Frank and Angela Boyle closed their restaurant and beauty salon in March and had been paying staff from savings until a fortnight ago, when the money ran out.

Mr Boyle has run Ed's Bar & Grill for 14 years - and some of his team have been with him just as long. He said: "First thing my wife does every morning is go and check the bank to see if the payment has been made.

"We have four members of the same family working in the business and they're really hurting.

"A month after we were forced to close - and quite rightly so - there's not been a penny of help."

Bill McCann, owner of Bill McCann Estate Agency in Lisburn, had hoped the turnaround would be under a week. He said: "A lot of small businesses are suffering and I don't think we need the added worry of the slow payment of this grant."

On Wednesday, Jamie Grant, who owns The Lighthouse Bar and Grill in Donaghadee, told the BBC that he applied for the £10,000 grant on March 26 and was still waiting.

"We shut the restaurant completely in mid-March. We made the decision based on both the expectation of the grant and our position, to furlough our salaried and full-time staff at this point," he said.

"The bigger frustration is the lack of information from anyone with authority.

"We pay our business rates by direct debit and we were originally told we didn't have to do anything and payment would be issued automatically."

Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, said he gets calls every day from businesses in the same boat.

He added: "If you're in the water with one day to go, a lifeboat 10 days away is no good to you - this is a lifeline and without that these businesses will go under."

Lisburn and Castlereagh Alliance councillor Amanda Grehan said the delay could send some businesses to the wall.

She added: "Any people are having to resort to the benefits system to survive, which puts it under further strain. It adds to the stress and confusion people are currently experiencing."

A Land and Property Services (LPS) spokeswoman said the agency was "committed to getting money to businesses as soon as possible".

So far, 17,100 businesses have been paid.

She said LPS staff are sorting about 5,000 possible duplicates and a further 3000 businesses which may be eligible are yet to make an application.

She added: "In normal circumstances the administration of these grants would take several months to execute.

"There are a number of instances where further work is required to make sure the money goes to the right people.

"Staff are working through these cases as quickly as possible to ensure every business which is entitled to a grant receives one and that no single business receives more money than it is entitled to."

Belfast Telegraph