The first payments to help Northern Ireland businesses during the coronavirus pandemic will be paid next week, the economy minister has pledged.
Diane Dodds said around 27,000 small businesses qualify for the £10,000 grants.
She said the first recipients would be those which her department holds bank details for.
Highlighting that her officials only have banking information of around 7,000 businesses, she encouraged the others to use a newly launched online platform to register their details so they could access the Small Business Support Grant Scheme.
Payments in Business Support Grant Schemes to start early next week.— Economy NI (@Economy_NI) March 26, 2020
The first payment in the scheme will be made on March 31, if not before, @Economy_NI Diane Dodds has said. pic.twitter.com/vSZh1QJlrI
Around 4,000 businesses in the tourism, hospitality and retail sectors are eligible to apply for larger grants of £25,000 through another scheme.
Mrs Dodds said her officials were still developing that scheme.
“My focus remains on getting payments out as quickly as possible to businesses, for the benefit of the businesses,” she said.
“These grants schemes – worth more than £370 million – will benefit some 27,000 small local businesses and a further 4,000 businesses in our beleaguered tourism, hospitality and retail sectors.”
The minister said businesses currently in receipt of small business rate relief (SBRR) will be eligible to receive a £10,000 cash grant payment.
“Payment will be made directly into the bank accounts of those businesses which currently pay their rates by direct debit,” she said.
“At present we hold bank details for approximately 7,000 small businesses who qualify for this grant.
This is a crisis without parallel and we are progressing these schemes as quick as we canDiane Dodds
“Payments to these businesses are now being processed and first payments will be in businesses’ bank accounts early next week.
“We need to collect details for eligible businesses for whom we do not currently hold bank details. To facilitate this, an online web portal has been developed and is now live.”
Mrs Dodds added: “This is a crisis without parallel and we are progressing these schemes as quick as we can.
“My department will continue to work hard to put in place arrangements for the £25,000 grant for our hospitality, tourism and retail sectors and I will announce further details on this as soon as possible.”
The £25,000 grants will be available to companies in retail, tourism and hospitality sectors with a rateable value between £15,001 and £51,000.
The web page is accessible at https://www.covid-19smallbusinessgrants.economy-ni.gov.uk/