Grocery retailers and food and drink manufacturers are among sectors set to benefit from a new £178m grant scheme announced this morning by Finance Minister Conor Murphy.
Following on from last week’s welcome announcement of a further 12-month rates holiday for many businesses, the new support grants will be extended to almost 20,000 businesses.
“This package of support will help businesses and safeguard jobs through the period ahead as we emerge from the current restrictions,” said Murphy.
“These grants will benefit a mixture of businesses including those not provided with grant funding earlier this year and businesses which have been allowed to remain open, but which have experienced a significant reduction in trade due to the restrictions.”
The schemes include a £50,000 grant for large businesses unable to access grant funding during the first lockdown, but eligible for the 12-month rates holiday including manufacturers and garden centres. Among excluded sectors are food retail and petrol filling stations.
A grant of £25,000 will be on offer to smaller manufacturing businesses unable to access grant funding during the first lockdown, and top-up payments of £5,000 and £10,000 for businesses receiving grants during the first lockdown but not eligible for one of the current Executive support schemes.
Potentially eligible businesses for the £5,000 grant include essential retail allowed to remain open such as butchers, home bakeries, delis, convenience stores, post offices and pharmacies.
Glyn Roberts, chief executive, Retail NI, said: “This is a particularly welcome announcement for a significant number of essential city and town centre retailers whose businesses were under threat as a result of lost footfall. Minister Murphy listened to our concerns and responded with this grant scheme to support those businesses.
“The lost footfall grant scheme will secure hundreds of jobs and ensure these independent retailers can continue to provide food and other important products to local communities.
“While the £178m grants and rates holiday are all positive, we now need the Executive to give a date for non-essential retail, close contact services and hospitality to safely reopen. It is vital we get a date.”
Stephen Kelly, chief executive, Manufacturing NI, also welcomed the new grants. “Since last summer, we have been working to try to get financial support for the 1,106 SME manufacturers with a full rates valuation of less than £50,000,” he said. “News that these firms will automatically receive a £25,000 grant will be a great relief.
“Starting a business in manufacturing is tougher and more costly than most other sectors. If we lost these businesses now, we would have lost them likely forever.
“On top of the business rates holiday for 2021/22 for all manufacturers, the top up for micro-manufacturers and potential grants for larger firms, there is no doubt that business and jobs have been saved today.”