Councillors at a Policy and Resource (P&R) committee meeting on Friday 29 July approved a simplified Covid Additional Relief Fund (CARF) scheme to make sure all eligible local businesses can receive help from over £6.9m allocated to the city.
No need to apply – we’ll find those eligible
The revised scheme will mean businesses no longer have to make an application or supply proof of material loss. Instead, council officials will assess and identify eligible businesses, adopting methodology used by central government for national distribution.
This will enable more businesses affected by the pandemic, but ineligible for existing support linked to business rates, to receive help by the deadline of 30 September 2022.
1000 awards expected – but slow take-up
The government announced the scheme in March 2021 but did not issue guidance about how local authorities were to distribute funds until December 2021.
Our P & R (Recovery) sub-committee approved a local scheme on 20 January 2022. It was expected that the fund would pay for up to one thousand awards. But take-up has been slow, despite the council contacting all potentially eligible businesses and publicising the scheme.
Money will go back to government if not spent
By mid-June this year, only 224 CARF awards had been made, amounting to just over £1.2m, leaving almost £5.7m unallocated. This will be reclaimed by the government if not spent.
Changes from 30 July
The proposed changes will take effect from 30 July. There will only be one round of relief allocations, with a provisional maximum award of £75,000. Applications received up to 29 July will be considered using the old criteria, but top-ups will be awarded if the amount received would be greater under the revised scheme.
Everyone eligible will get their share
Council leader, Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty, said: “We know it’s been a tough time for local businesses, and many are continuing to suffer because of the long-term economic impact of the pandemic.
"It’s simply unacceptable for us in sight of that not to use every eligible penny of government funding to help local businesses.
“With this new process, we’re doing our utmost to make sure that local businesses get what they are entitled to from this government grant before the deadline at the end of September.”