As news comes through of very positive trial results for the Oxford vaccine, there has been more good news for Northern Ireland businesses as a new financial support package has been unveiled by Stormont, which has pledged over £200 million in support of the business community.
£95m Voucher Scheme For High Street
Also households in Northern Ireland will share in a £95 million voucher scheme which they will be able to spend on the high street in a bid to energise our towns and cities. This will come in the form of a pre-paid card for spending on the high street.
The Localised Restrictions Support Scheme will also be extended, this is intended to help non-essential retail, leisure and entertainment firms which will have to shut from Friday under a new two-week lockdown.
Other measures in the package, as detailed on the Belfast Telegraph website, include:
- £20m to extend the 12 month rate holiday to the manufacturing sector.
- £10.6m for 1,000 wet pubs facing additional financial hardship
- £5m to top-up the tourism and hospitality scheme
- £4.1m for bed and breakfasts which previously missed out on business support because they pay domestic rates and
- £3m for local businesses grow their online sales
Longer Term Support On Business Rates
And Finance Minister Conor Murphy is quoted in the same article, saying:
“In addition to this £213m for business and recognising Covid will continue to be with us for the months to come, the Executive has also agreed to hold £150m centrally for longer-term support on business rates.
“I hope to be able to provide an update on this in the very near future.”
And also in the article Aodhan Connolly, director of the NI Retail Consortium, said: “The £95m that will be given to households to spend on the high street is particularly welcome as it creates a virtuous circle of spending that will support retailers in the leaner months of January and February as well as being of huge benefit to those households whose budgets are already squeezed. This will make a tangible difference to the high street, to livelihoods and too lives.”
Hospitality Firms & Entrepreneurs Crying Out For Help
And Angela McGowan, CBI Northern Ireland director, added:
“NI hospitality firms and entrepreneurs have been crying out for extra help for some time. Targeted support that helps both households and firms in the lead up to Christmas will go part-way to cushioning the blow of what’s been a very difficult year.
“Fast delivery is going to be as critical as the financial support itself.
“Let’s not forget many of these companies have had little or no income for at least nine months. The Executive now needs to engage swiftly with NI business, allocate these as well as outstanding Covid funds, and deliver a recovery plan that enables companies to protect jobs and livelihoods.”
Let us all hope that a corner is slowly being turned and businesses can get back to what they do best. The upcoming vaccine, and these financial support packages will, fingers crossed, be a bridge to better times ahead here in Northern Ireland.
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