Business owners across County Durham have spoken of their relief at the quick processing of support grants by Durham County Council.
The grants were launched late last week to help businesses through the Coronavirus pandemic and council staff have since worked tirelessly to process payments.
To date, the council has already supported 3,575 businesses, paying more than £43m, and expects to exceed £50m of payments by Friday.
The grants are either £10,000 or £25,000, depending on the size of the company, and do not need to be repaid.
They’re one-off payments designed to help small businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors, many of which were the first to close or be affected by the Coronavirus outbreak.
A number of businesses have praised the council for the way it has worked with them to establish simple claims processes and over the speed in which the payments have been made.
There are more than 8,000 properties across the county eligible for the grants and it’s expected that the council will have paid out £89 million once all applications have been processed.
That is in addition to the business rates reliefs which have already been processed in the week. Revised bills have been issued, providing a further £44 million of reductions to business rates bills in order to support local businesses even more.
In a webchat with Aycliffe Today – available to see on our Facebook page – Nev Jones, owner of Aycliffe firm J&C Coaches, said: “We’ve already had our payment into the bank already, which is a big help, and we’ve also furloughed our staff.
“My heart goes out to other bigger companies who maybe have more debt and bills to pay, who will really struggle, but we should be able to see the job through.
“But the health of people comes first, and the over-riding message is to keep listening to the advice, stay at home until this is all over.”
Eligible businesses who haven’t yet applied for the grants are being encouraged to as soon as possible to get the help they’re entitled to during these challenging times.
Guidelines around which businesses are eligible for the grant have been set by the government. Details of this are available online at www.durham.gov.uk/ndrgrants
Cllr Carl Marshall, portfolio holder for economic regeneration, said: “I’m delighted that we have been able to make a difference to so many businesses already. We know that these are difficult times and we know our local businesses need these support grants, which is why our staff are working tirelessly to prioritise making payments to them.
“I would ask any eligible business who hasn’t yet applied to please do so. We are committed to supporting all our businesses through this pandemic and these grants will go a long way in doing that. Companies can submit their details online and we will process their payment as quickly as possible.
“I have to again say thanks to our staff for all their hard work. They have been incredibly committed to supporting our local businesses in what are very difficult circumstances for themselves.
“We expect to have paid more than £50m by the end of the week, which is more than half of our estimated total – all within a week of receiving the government guidance on who was eligible for the payments.
“That is a tremendous achievement and highlights the dedication of our fantastic team who themselves are having to work flexibly from home as they follow the government advice on social distancing – they have been fantastic.”