Small businesses can apply for grants of up to £25,000 to help cover trading losses due to coronavirus

A CHARITABLE trust has announced up to £12million in emergency support to help community businesses through the coronavirus crisis.

Power to Change, which supports community businesses in England, has created the emergency support package.

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This in order to allow community businesses – which provide vital support services in local areas – to withstand the loss of trading income as a result of the lockdown.

There are around 9,000 community businesses in England which use their profits to deliver a positive local impact.

However, 58 per cent have had to stop their primary operations completely because they are either venues such as community hubs, retail or arts/culture businesses.

The pandemic has increased the demands placed on community businesses and the need for their services is greater than ever.

The emergency support includes £7million in rescue funding for these businesses, offering grants up to £25,000 to cover trading income loss between April-June 2020.

What other help is there for businesses?

  • The government has offered to furlough workers through its Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme, paying up to 80 per cent of wages up to £2,500 a month
  • While self-employed workers can get up to 80 per cent of profits paid by the government for the next three months – again up to £2,500 a month
  • Under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, SMEs can get loans and overdrafts of up to £5 million for up to six years and the government with guarantee up to 80 per of these loans
  • Small firms can get grants of up to £10,000 to help with ongoing business costs
  • It has also announced VAT payments and self-assessment tax returns are deferred for three months
  • SMEs that cannot afford their tax bills can ask HMRC for a “time to pay” arrangement so any debt collection is suspended
  • And they can get up to two weeks’ sick pay – almost £200 per employee up to 250 staff members – refunded by the government.
  • A 12-month business rates holiday has been introduced for many businesses

This first pot of funding is available to Power to Change grantees, and to community businesses which are members of Co-operatives UK, Locality and the Plunkett Foundation.

The remaining £5million is for recovery funding, helping the businesses rebuild and recover strongly from the crisis.

Vidhya Alakeson, chief executive of Power to Change, said: “The coronavirus crisis has shown just how important community businesses are to the lives of local people right across the country.

“From providing essential supplies and services, to supporting the vulnerable and isolated, there have been countless stories of community businesses leading the way in the community response to Covid-19.”

Community businesses working hard through the pandemic include Nudge, a business that converts derelict buildings in Plymouth, Devon, which has created a WiFi net between the buildings so it can provide free WiFi to the community.

Homebaked, a community land trust and co-operative bakery in Liverpool, has set up a new takeaway delivery service during lockdown and is working with local groups to get food and care to the vulnerable.

And The Anglers Rest, a community pub and post office in the Peak District, has maintained its key services during the crisis so that residents can continue to collect pension payments, pay essential bills and withdraw cash for food supplies.

Despite the challenges presented by coronavirus, Power to Change is confident the community business sector can emerge to play an even more central role in their neighbourhoods following this crisis.

This is by building on the renewed sense of community spirit in the country and helping to play a key role in rebuilding our society and economy.

Vidhya Alakeson added: “Our aim now is to ensure that community businesses can continue their vital work despite the impact of lost trading due to coronavirus.

“We have designed this emergency support in close collaboration with our partners Cooperatives UK, Locality, and the Plunkett Foundation, taking on board insights and advice from across the sector.

“We will continually review the short, medium and long term needs of community businesses as we support them throughout this crisis and beyond.”

Power to Change has invested in more than 1,000 community businesses since it launched in 2015 with an endowment from the National Lottery Community Fund.

This emergency support will be open for applications from week commencing May 11 to support those organisations and around a thousand more community businesses who are members of Co-operatives UK, Locality and Plunkett Foundation.

All new applications to Power to Change funding programmes are paused while it focuses on delivering its emergency support.

However, those who have already been awarded a grant will receive it as planned.

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