Who will benefit from the new fund? 

Thousands of smaller businesses are set to benefit from this new fund, and there will also be professional and legal assistance to help them get back on track. This new fund also comes on top of the unprecedented £2 billion Kickstart Scheme which aims to create thousands of new jobs for young people around the country. There has also been £1.6 billion invested in scaling up employment support schemes. This has been in the form of apprenticeships and available training. 
 

What is being said about the new fund? 

Speaking about the new fund, Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government, Simon Clarke MP said: 
 
“We have always said that we would stand behind our businesses and communities as we rebuild following the coronavirus pandemic. This new funding does exactly that.” 
 
He went on to add: “Businesses will be able to use these new grants to pay for the expertise, equipment and technology they need to adapt, recover and rebuild.” 
 
In addition, Mr Clarke said: “Small and medium-sized businesses are the beating heart of communities; they provide employment and contribute significantly to local economies and we are determined to give them the support they need to continue to thrive.” 
 
This new grant also builds on a £10 million support package announced by the same minister earlier this month. This was set up to help kickstart the tourism industry and visitor economy. 
 
It forms part of a package of government measures to keep the economy moving, along with the furlough scheme and the self-employment support scheme. Of course, all of this money going around does beg the question – where is it all coming from? And is it sustainable? 
 

Where is the funding coming from? 

Funding for the new scheme will come from the England Regional Development Fund and it will be distributed through Growth Hubs that have been set up around the UK. This all forms a part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for the European Regional Development Fund in England (ERDF). 
 
Funding has been allocated to Growth Hubs within each Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) area in line with the current ERDF Programme. A minimum of £250,000 has been set for all LEP areas and resources will be allocated and reviewed as the fund is delivered. 
 

What are Business Growth Hubs? 

Growth Hubs work across the country with local and national, public and private sector partners. These can include organisations such as Chambers of Commerce, FSB, universities, Enterprise Zones and banks. They aim to co-ordinate local business support and connect businesses to the right people for their needs. 
 
Locally driven and locally owned, they are at the heart of the government’s plan to ensure business support is simpler and easier to access for smaller businesses. These hubs will hopefully come into their own over the coming months, helping small businesses around the country to bounce back from the pandemic. 
 

What activities are supported by this grant? 

Activities supported by the grant can include guidance as to how best to respond to the coronavirus. There are also the grants of between £1,000 to £5,000 to help businesses access specialist professional advice. This can include advice regarding HR and accounts, as well as about legal, financial, IT and digital issues. The grants can also be used to purchase equipment to help utilise new technology to help keep businesses running. 
 
For many small businesses this can involve trying to develop online services. The pandemic has shown that the future of many businesses lies online. It allows you to continue trading no matter what the circumstances, reaching a wider audience at all times of the day and night. For small businesses that have not previously tapped into this potential, now is the right time to do it and this grant can make it possible. 
 

What are the eligibility criteria? 

Small businesses in England that pay little or no business rates are entitled to a one-off cash grant of up £10,000 from their local council. 
 
You’re eligible if your business is based in England and occupies property. You also need to have been eligible for small business rate relief or rural rate relief on 11 March 2020. 
 
You cannot get funding for properties occupied for personal uses, such as private stables, beach huts and moorings, as well as car parks and parking spaces. If you occupy more than one property you get a loan for each. 
 

What can they use the grant for? 

Businesses can use this grant to create an ecommerce platform that allows them to sell goods and services online. They can invest in digital marketing to drive traffic to their site, as well as building an effective social media presence. This will help them to reach out to customers and build lasting relationships. 
 
In the current climate and with the impending economic difficulties, this grant and the other measures put in place may be a much-needed lifeline for many small businesses.  
 

How can businesses apply? 

These grant schemes will open on Tuesday 15th September 2020 at midday (12pm). If you live in the local area you can visit the Berkshire Business Hub website to find out more. 
 
If your business is based in a different area, then you will need to find your own local Growth Hub and apply through them.  
Even if this new loan is not applicable to your business, it may be time to start investing in new technology and new areas of selling. A new website with an ecommerce platform may be the ideal solution for your business. 
 
If you would like to know more about how digital marketing and web design can help you, get in touch with a member of the it’seeze Windsor web design team
 
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