Coronavirus - a guide to government help for businesses

Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s first Budget contained a raft of measures to help businesses during the coronavirus pandemic. He has subsequently introduced further measures to support businesses, their employees and the self-employed as the crisis has deepened.


The government expects that the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on businesses is likely to be significant, with estimates suggesting one in five people could be off work at any one time alongside reduced demand from customers and disrupted supply chains.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s measures are designed to help deal with both the immediate impact of coronavirus on businesses as staff become unwell or can’t work because of the impact of lockdown. He is also trying to help offset the subsequent disruption to the economy from the resulting slowdown both on the supply and demand side.

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What help has the Chancellor offered?

In the Budget, the Chancellor put aside £12 billion of support for households and businesses which he said was ‘temporary, timely and targeted’. He said he wanted ‘to provide support to businesses during this temporary period by either reducing their costs or bridging cash flow problems arising from the outbreak, and to protect people’s jobs’.

Subsequent to that, as the government brought in more stringent recommendations about social isolation, he has increased the package on offer – with up to £330 billion of loan guarantees. It is a significant amount, equivalent to 15% of UK GDP. The self-employed have also been targeted with a special package for them costing the government around £3 billion a month.

So what help is available to businesses and how can they access it?

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Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)

A new, temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme has been launched to help businesses access bank lending and overdrafts. The scheme will support loans of up to £5 million in value. They are aimed at small and medium-sized businesses with an annual turnover of up to £45 million, across the UK who are experiencing lost or deferred revenues, leading to disruptions to their cash flow.

The scheme offers finance in a variety of ways including:

  • term loans
  • overdrafts
  • invoice finance
  • asset finance

It is being delivered by the British Business Bank to give confidence to lenders giving loans to small businesses and became available from 23rd March.

The main features of the CBILS scheme:

  • Up to £5m available per business: The maximum value provided under the scheme will be £5m, with repayment terms of up to six years for term loans and asset finance, and three years for overdrafts and invoice finance.
  • 80% guarantee: The scheme provides the lender with a government-backed, partial guarantee (80%) against the outstanding balance, subject to an overall limit per lender.
  • No guarantee fee for SMEs to access the scheme: No fee for smaller businesses. Lenders will pay a fee to access the scheme.
  • Interest and fees paid by government for 12 months: The government will make a Business Interruption Payment to cover the first 12 months of interest payments and any lender-levied fees, so smaller businesses will benefit from no upfront costs and lower initial repayments1.
  • The borrower always remains 100% liable for the debt.

Since the scheme was launched, there have been changes made regarding security against the loans. Originally, the scheme was set up so that if the lender could offer finance on normal commercial terms without the need to make use of the scheme, they would do so.

Lenders have now been stopped from requesting personal guarantees for loans under £250,000, making the scheme more accessible to a wider range of businesses. The Chancellor introduced this change at the start of April, after the scheme’s introduction, following representations about how it was working. To be eligible the lender must consider the borrowing proposal viable, if not for the coronavirus pandemic.

Lloyds Bank is accepting loan applications from business customers for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. See more about how the scheme works, who is eligible and how to apply.

Please consider applying using our website in the first instance. Telephone lines are likely to be busy. Also consider government advice to stay indoors. Please try to avoid visiting a branch if possible, especially as branches may have limited capacity to handle enquires due to social distancing.

The government will also extend the funding of the British Business Bank’s Start-Up Loans programme to the end of 2021-22, supporting up to 10,000 further entrepreneurs across the UK to access finance to start a business.

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Bounce Back Loan Scheme

To help small businesses in need of fast small loans, the Chancellor announced the launch of a 'new micro loan’ scheme on 27th April. He said it would provide 'a simple, quick, easy solution for those in need of smaller loans’.

The scheme allows even the smallest business to get help. You can apply for a loan if your business:

  • is based in the UK
  • has been negatively affected by coronavirus
  • was not an ‘undertaking in difficulty’ on 31 December 2019.

How the loans work:

  • Loans of £2,000-£50,000 up to 25% of a business' turnover available.
  • The government will guarantee 100% of the loan.
  • No repayments will be due within the first year.
  • Borrowers won’t have to pay any interest or fees for the first year – these will be covered by the government.
  • Loan terms up to six years.

Mr Sunak said that the loans would be available from 4th May with just a short, simple online form.

The government said it will work with lenders to make sure loans get to borrowers as quickly as possible. It also aims to agree a low standardised level of interest for the remaining period of the loan once the first year is up.

Lloyds Bank is accepting loan applications from business customers for the Bounce Back Loan Scheme. See more about how the scheme works, who is eligible and how to apply.

Businesses cannot apply for a Bounce Back Loan if already claiming under CBILS. However, if you’ve received a loan of up to £50,000 under CBILS it is possible to re-finance into the Bounce Back Loan Scheme until 4 November 2020.

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Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS)

A scheme has also been set up for larger businesses. According to the Chancellor, this is being done 'to ensure that more companies are able to benefit from government-backed support during this difficult time'.

The new CLBILS will provide a government guarantee of 80% to enable banks to make loans of:

  • up to £25 million to businesses with turnover from £45 million up to £250 million
  • up to £50 million to businesses with a turnover of over £250 million.

Lending can come in the form of:

  • business loans
  • overdrafts
  • invoice finance
  • asset finance.

Repayment terms of three months up to three years are available.

You must also have a borrowing proposal which the lender:

  • would consider viable, if not for the coronavirus pandemic
  • believes will enable you to trade out of any short-term to medium-term difficulty.

Loans backed by a guarantee under CLBILS will be offered at commercial rates of interest. Unlike the CBILS for smaller businesses, the CLBILS does not have business interruption payment to cover interest and fees for the first 12 months. Borrowers are responsible for the payment of all interest and fees, and remain 100% liable for the debt. But businesses should receive the economic benefit of the government guarantee reflected in the interest rate charged by lenders, says UK Finance, the organisation that represents the banking and finance industry.

Companies who have received facilities from the Bank of England’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) are not eligible.

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Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF)

The Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) will provide funding to large corporate businesses by purchasing commercial paper of up to one-year maturity. It is open to firms 'making a material contribution to the UK economy' such as employing large numbers of people or having their corporate HQ in the UK. It will help businesses across a range of sectors to pay wages and suppliers, even while experiencing severe disruption to cash flows.

The facility is open to firms that can demonstrate they were in sound financial health prior to the crisis, by basing eligibility on their credit ratings before the COVID-19 shock, rather than on the recent temporary impacts on firms’ balance sheets and cash flows. In practice, this means companies that had a short or long-term rating of investment grade or equivalent, as at 1 March 2020. Businesses do not need to have previously issued commercial paper in order to participate.

It will offer financing on terms comparable to those prevailing in markets in the period before the COVID-19 economic shock.

The scheme will operate for at least 12 months and for as long as steps are needed to relieve cash flow pressures on firms that make a material contribution to the UK economy.

For full details of how the scheme will operate, see the Bank of England’s information for those seeking to participate in the CCFF.

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The Future Fund

This scheme, due to launch in May 2020, is aimed at innovative start-up companies facing financial issues due to the coronavirus pandemic. Loans of between £125,000 and £5 million are available subject to at least equal match funding from private investors.

The scheme is designed for businesses that rely on equity investment and are not able to access the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.

To be eligible, your business must be an unlisted UK registered company that has raised at least £250,000 in aggregate from private third-party investors in previous funding rounds in the last five years and have a substantive economic presence in the UK.

See more about the Future Fund.

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Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to cover employee wages

Employers can contact HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) for a grant to cover most of the wages of people who are not working but are furloughed and kept on payroll, rather than being laid off.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is designed to help employers retain jobs for the longer term, even if they can’t afford to pay staff currently. The minimum time an employee can be furloughed is three weeks.

Government grants will cover 80% of the salary of retained workers up to a total of £2,500 a month – including minimum wage employees. See what can and can’t be included as salary in the government guide on how to calculate 80% of your employee’s wages.

This is designed to help employers retain jobs for the longer term, even if they can’t afford to pay staff currently.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will cover the cost of wages for four months backdated to 1 March, 2020. The Chancellor said he will extend the scheme for longer if necessary and he hasn’t put any limits on the scheme.

To be eligible you must have:

  • created and started a PAYE payroll scheme on or before 19 March 2020
  • enrolled for PAYE online
  • a UK bank account.

If an employee was on your payroll on 28 February 2020 (and you have made a Real Time Information submission in respect of them), but was made redundant or their employment was ended in some other way prior to 19 March 2020, you can rehire them and place them on furlough. This is the case even if they are rehired after 19 March 2020.

Any organisation with a UK payroll can apply, including businesses, charities, recruitment agencies and public authorities. Employees would need to be on their organisation’s Real Time Information submission before 19 March to qualify.

Apprentices can be furloughed in the same way as other employees and they can continue to train while furloughed.

If your company is being taken under the management of an administrator, the administrator will be able to access the Job Retention Scheme. But the government expects that an administrator would only access the scheme if there is a reasonable likelihood of rehiring the workers. For instance, this could be as a result of the administrator trying to sell the business.

Check whether you can claim employee wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

See full details of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Claim for wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

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Statutory Sick Pay

The government had already announced that to encourage individuals to self-isolate, Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) would temporarily be paid from the first day of sickness absence, including for individuals who are unable to work because they have to self-isolate.

The Chancellor pledged that the government will support small and medium-sized businesses and employers to cope with the extra costs of paying COVID-19 related SSP by refunding eligible SSP costs. The eligibility criteria for the scheme are:

  • this refund will be limited to two weeks per employee
  • employers with fewer than 250 employees (as of 28 February 2020) will be eligible
  • employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of COVID-19
  • employers should maintain records of staff absences, but should not require employees to provide a GP fit note
  • the eligible period for the scheme will start on the day on which the regulations extending SSP to self-isolators come into force.

However, because the existing sick pay system is not designed to give employers refunds in this way, the government has said it will work with employers over the coming months to set up a repayment mechanism as soon as possible.

If you need more help to understand what your responsibilities are then see the Statutory Sick Pay: employers guide.  

The delay in refunding employers could put further pressure on cash flow, however the Chancellor announced further measures to try and tackle cash flow issues.

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Help for the self-employed

The government will pay self-employed people who have been adversely affected by the coronavirus a taxable grant worth 80% of their average monthly profits over the last three years, up to £2,500 a month. The Chancellor said 95% of people who are majority self-employed should be able to benefit from this scheme – about 3.8 million people.

The Self-Employed Income Support Scheme will be open for at least three months – and the Chancellor said he will extend it for longer if necessary. To make sure only the genuinely self-employed benefit and help minimise fraud, to apply you have to have:

  • a trading profit of less than £50,000 in 2018-19 or an average trading profit of less than £50,000 from 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19
  • make the majority of your income from self-employment
  • have submitted a tax return for 2019.

HMRC expects people to be able to access the scheme no later than the beginning of June. If you’re eligible, HMRC will contact you directly, ask you to fill out a simple online form, then pay the grant straight into your bank account. Grants will be paid in a single lump sum instalment covering all three months.

If you are self-employed and missed the filing deadline in January, the government is offering an extension on submitting your tax return to 23 April.

If you are self-employed but pay yourself a salary and dividends through your own company, you will not be covered by the scheme but will be covered for your salary by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme if you are operating a PAYE scheme.

See how to apply to the Self Employed Income Support Scheme.

If you are self-employed and are struggling now you can also:

  • access the Business Interruption Loan Scheme
  • defer self-assessment income tax payments that are due by 31 July to the end of January 2021
  • access Universal Credit in full.

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Business Rates Reliefs

Administering rates is devolved, so available help can differ between UK regions.

In England all retail, leisure and hospitality businesses will be eligible for a tax holiday from business rates for 12 months. The measure applies to:

  • shops
  • cinemas and theatres
  • restaurants and hotels
  • museums and art galleries
  • caravan parks
  • gyms and sports clubs
  • nightclubs

Nursery businesses on Ofsted’s Early Years Register or properties wholly or mainly used for the provision of the Early Years Foundation Stage are also being given a business rates holiday for the 2020 to 2021 tax year.

You can get small business rate relief if your property’s rateable value is less than £15,000. You will not pay business rates on a property with a rateable value of £12,000 or less.

For properties with a rateable value of £12,001 to £15,000, the rate of relief will go down gradually from 100% to 0%. For example, if your rateable value is £13,500, you’ll get 50% off your bill. If your rateable value is £14,000, you’ll get 33% off.

If your property in England has a rateable value below £51,000, your bill will be calculated using the small business multiplier, which is lower than the standard one. This is the case even if you do not get small business rate relief.

The small business multiplier is 49.1p and the standard multiplier is 50.4p from 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020. The multipliers may be different in the City of London.

Grants are available to some businesses too:

  • small businesses in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief can apply for grant funding of £10,000 for all business
  • retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000 can apply for grant funding of £25,000.

See more about grants

In Wales the government, which has devolved responsibility for rates, has also announced business rates relief for small businesses with shops, leisure and hospitality businesses seeing their rates cut, and in some cases removed entirely. It is also offering grants to small businesses.

  • Retail, leisure and hospitality businesses with a rateable value of £12,001 to £51,000 will receive 100% business rate relief.

Businesses with a rateable value of £12,000 or less that are eligible for Small Business Rates Relief will get a grant of £10,000.

Retail, leisure and hospitality businesses with a rateable value of £12,001 to £51,000 will get a grant of £25,000.

These grants and changes will be administered through the business rates system.

In Scotland the government has said it will provide relief to non-domestic properties from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021:

  • a 100% rates relief for retail, hospitality and leisure sectors – which will be applied to bills without the need to apply.
  • Scottish airports will get 100% rates relief for a year, as will organisations providing handling services for scheduled passenger flights at Scottish airports, such as baggage handling, re-fuelling and waste servicing.
  • 1.6% rates relief for all properties across Scotland, effectively reversing the planned below inflation uplift in the poundage from 1 April 2020.
  • a fixed rates relief of up to £5,000 for all pubs with a rateable value of less than £100,000 from 1 April 2020.

Because of the role that Loganair plays in providing connectivity in the Highlands and Islands, the Scottish government has also given them 100% rates relief for a year. No other airline will receive rate relief in Scotland.

There are also grants available to specific types of businesses including retail, hospitality and leisure businesses including self-catering accommodation and caravans. Get more details on grants and how to apply.

In Northern Ireland Finance Minister Conor Murphy announced a £100 million rates package:

  • All businesses will pay zero rates for the next three months excluding public sector and utilities. It will be shown as a 25% discount on the annual rate bill for business ratepayers.
  • The issuing of rates bills will be deferred from April until June to help businesses with short-term cash flow. You can still choose to pay monthly from June 2020 to April 2021

The Regional Rate has been adjusted downward to offset the change in the total rateable value due to Reval2020. A further 12.5% cut has now been made in the Budget.

The NI Executive is making available £10,000 and £25,000 one-off grants to eligible business ratepayers. The £10,000 Small Business Support Grant Scheme is available to businesses that are currently in receipt of Small Business Rate Relief.

See Coronavirus: £10,000 Small Business Support Grant Scheme.

The £25,000 grant is for eligible businesses in the hospitality, tourism and retail sectors who pay rates on a property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000.

See Coronavirus: £25,000 Hospitality, Tourism and Retail Grant.

Also, the rural ATM scheme has been restored which will help to sustain accessibility to cash in isolated rural areas.

Check your relevant government website for more information on business rates:

England and also English business rate relief

Wales

Scotland

Northern Ireland

If you need any further information, talk to the business rates team at your local council.

The Scottish government has also launched a website to help Scottish businesses find support plus a business helpline on 0300 303 0660. Callers should select option one to speak to the COVID-19 team.

The Northern Ireland government has put together answers to common questions that may be useful for local business.

The Welsh government has information on support for Welsh businesses.

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VAT payments deferred

The next quarter of VAT payments has been deferred by the Chancellor. That means your business will not have to make any VAT payments to HMRC from now until the end of June. You will have until the end of the financial year to repay those bills.

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Time to Pay

If your business is going to find it difficult to pay your outstanding tax liabilities, the government has promised support:

You may be able to agree a bespoke ‘Time to Pay’ arrangement. A Time to Pay arrangement is a time-limited deferral period on HMRC liabilities owed, and a pre-agreed time period to repay these. HMRC will also consider cancelling penalties and interest and suspending debt collection proceedings. HMRC will also waive late payment penalties and interest where a business experiences administrative difficulties contacting HMRC or paying taxes due to COVID-19.

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has set up a dedicated COVID-19 helpline. If you need help, call the COVID-19 helpline on 0800 0159 559 Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm, and Saturday 8am to 4pm. The helpline will not be available on Bank Holidays.

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Business interruption insurance

The Chancellor also confirmed that government advice to avoid pubs, clubs and theatres etc is sufficient for businesses to claim on their insurance where they have appropriate business interruption cover for pandemics in place.

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Getting help from Lloyds Bank

As a bank, we are also committed to protecting our small business customers from the impacts of the coronavirus and have therefore introduced a £2 billion package to help minimise disruption over the coming weeks and months. For more information on the support available please see our dedicated page, where you’ll also find more information on the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.

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1 Fishery, aquaculture and agriculture businesses may not qualify for the full interest and fee payment.

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