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Councillors approve addition to business grant scheme

Businesses in Orkney who have previously received financial assistance through Scottish Government business grant schemes or the council’s Business Hardship Support Fund will receive an additional payment from the council’s £5m Coronavirus Support Fund.

Businesses will receive an additional 10 per cent on what they have previously received.

Businesses who have received grant assistance from other agencies like HIE, will also be eligible for the additional support.

The local authority has said It is intended that, as far as possible, payments will be made automatically with no application process.

Separately to this, a grant of up to £500 will is to be made available for the purchase of safety screens or other personal safety equipment for those businesses who haven’t qualified under other grant schemes. This will be available once businesses who have previously qualified receive their grants.

The further measures were approved by councillors at a special meeting of the full council yesterday.

OIC has said this comes in response to representation from local businesses, who had requested additional support – particularly for businesses looking to purchase safety screens and PPE, in preparation for re-opening as national restrictions are lifted.

In April, following initial discussions with local industry, the council established a £5m fund in response to the COVID-19 crisis, aimed at assisting local businesses experiencing pressing financial difficulties as a result of the pandemic. This was in addition to the Scottish Government funded business schemes – from which OIC has paid out over £6.5m to date – and was aimed at businesses who did not qualify for the existing schemes.

OIC reports that its scheme has so far helped over 40 local business which were previously ineligible for support, providing grants of up to £15k.

The grant scheme remains open for applications – further details are available at www.orkney.gov.uk/Covid19.

The Scottish Government has established a number of business support grant schemes which have been administered by the local authority since March 2020. As of 19 June 2020, 623 awards totalling £6,517,000 had been made under the Non-Domestic Rates (NDR) based Small Business Grants, the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grants and the Newly Self-Employed Hardship Grants.

The deadline for applying for the Scottish Government grant schemes is July 10, 2020.

A further Full Council meeting at the end of June, will review the existing scheme and identify any potential adjustments that could be made to the existing scheme.

Councillor Graham Sinclair is chairman of the council’s Development and Infrastructure Committee. He said: “Between the Scottish Government funds and the Council funds, the level of grant support to Orkney businesses to date has been substantial. However, ongoing discussions with a number of Orkney business representatives in recent weeks has highlighted the substantial threat which remains to the future of many Orkney businesses.

“These matters were illustrated in the detailed business survey which had been prepared by business representatives. We have been working closely with business representatives throughout this crisis.  As restrictions begin to be lifted from the end of June, this additional financial assistance could help some local businesses prepare for this – which will be so important as we look to support a recovering economy.

“It’s important that we retain an ability to keep responding throughout this crisis in the weeks and months beyond. A great deal of money has been paid out, but we are aware that some businesses continue to fall between the cracks.  This announcement today will unfortunately not immediately address these cases. However, we have been listening to these businesses and the Council Business Hardship Grant Scheme is due for review at the end of this month and we hope that will be of some comfort.”

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