More than 1,000 businesses across County Durham have already received their grant to help support them through the Coronavirus pandemic.
Staff at Durham County Council have worked tirelessly since government guidance was received late last week to contact businesses whose properties qualify for the grants.
Working over the weekend, the council has so far helped 1,134 properties, paying more than £12m to local businesses by 10am on Monday 30 March.
More than 8,000 properties across the county are eligible for the grants, which range from £10,000 to £25,000 depending on the size of the company.
In total, the council expect to pay out £89m in grant payments once all eligible businesses make their applications and staff work through processing these.
To be able to support businesses as quickly as possible in these unprecedented times, the council’s payments have started ahead of the government’s 1st April deadline and before any funding has been received from the government.
This hasn’t gone unnoticed by businesses who have praised the council this weekend for how it has worked with them to quickly establish simple processes enabling businesses to claim these grants and over the speed in which they’ve received them.
The council is now hoping to process another 2,500 applications before Wednesday and is encouraging all eligible businesses to apply. Details of who is eligible are available online at http://www.durham.gov.uk/ndrgrants
Cllr Carl Marshall, portfolio holder for economic regeneration, said, “The council has worked extremely hard to implement the guidance that was received only a couple of days ago – and our staff have been contacting local companies to obtain all of the details required to make the payments. We are also asking companies to go online to submit their details so we can make the payments to them.
“It is fantastic that we have been able to start making the first payments and we will continue to process payments as quickly as possible now that information has started coming in from our businesses – we know they need the money and we are prioritising making payments to them.
“I must also praise our staff that have been working on all of the business rates payments under what are incredibly difficult circumstances. We have already processed all of the business rate reliefs that were announced last week and revised bills were issued yesterday – providing a further £44m of reductions to business rates bills and providing much needed support to our local businesses.”
Meanwhile, the council has updated information on other service areas affected:
- Register offices – All register offices in County Durham are closed to the public until further notice. In order to register a death, residents will need to make a telephone appointment by calling 03000 266 000. All birth registration appointments have been cancelled until further notice. To find out how to apply for child benefit or universal credit in advance of a birth being registered, visit https://www.gov.uk/child-benefit All ceremonies, including weddings, civil partnerships, naming ceremonies and non-statutory celebrations have also been suspended. Birth, marriage and death certificates can be ordered online or by phone and they will be posted to residents.
- Public transport – Arriva, GoNorthEast and other operators have reduced their services in response to reduced demand and to ensure they have available resource. Further details can be found at durham.gov.uk/busmap.
- Non-compliant businesses – following a small number of reports of non-essential businesses remaining open, the council is encouraging residents to report those who are not complying with government guidance. More information is available at durham.gov.uk/noncompliantbusiness.
- Pre-payment meters – Anyone who is unable to top up their pre-payment meter because they are ill or self-isolating is advising to contact their energy supplier. More information on the help and support available can be found at https://www.durham.gov.uk/Saveonyourenergybills.
- Rough sleepers – the council’s rough sleeper team has worked across the weekend to ensure all rough sleepers have accommodation and will continue to offer support to anyone believed to be sleeping rough. Members of the public can report rough sleepers by visiting streetlink.org.uk