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£1bn fund for businesses announced as the Omicron variant takes hold

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Today a £1bn fund for businesses has been set out for those hit by the current surge in cases caused by the Omicron variant of coronavirus.

Businesses hit the hardest in the leisure sector such as pubs, restaurants, bars and entertainment venues will be allowed to apply for grants of up to £6,000 per premises to offset their mounting losses either through cancellations from illness or because customers are increasingly fearful in the runup to Christmas. In addition, there is the growing threat of further lockdowns in a time when those in the entertainment and leisure industry had believed they might make up some of the shortfall from the previous year.

Companies outside of the entertainment and leisure industry will also be able to apply for a grant through local councils under the Additional Restrictions Grant. This has been topped up by £102m as the government recognises that businesses have been hit by staff shortages as the number of adults with Omicron in the UK keeps rising with over 90 thousand new cases reported on Monday 20 December. In summary the announcement means that:

  • Pubs, restaurants, cinemas, theatres, bars and clubs can apply for a grant of up to £6,000 per premises provided under the existing council-run schemes
  • Museums and arts organisations can apply for grants through the existing Culture Recovery Fund which has an extra £30m available
  • Businesses outside the leisure and hospitality sector can apply to local councils for a different grant under the Additional Restrictions Grant
  • An additional £154 of funding has been awarded to the UK’s devolved administrations including £80m for Scotland, £50m for Wales and £25m for Northern Ireland

Importantly, for SME business owners, the Chancellor has also announced the reintroduction of the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme, which will enable owners of businesses of less than 250 staff to receive compensation on sick pay.

Around 200,000 businesses will be eligible to take advantage of these measures, to help rescue businesses as the Omicron wave impacts the country.

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