Weekly brief 13 - March 27 2020

News 27 Mar 2020

FSB has secured a hugely ambitious government package of measures aimed at supporting the small business and self-employed community affected by coronavirus

A wrap of the week's small business news from FSB's Westminster Press, Policy and Public Affairs Office. To sign-up for Weekly Brief emails, please use this link.

LATEST ADVICE & OPPORTUNITIES

Coronavirus hub
FSB has secured a hugely ambitious government package of measures aimed at supporting the small business and self-employed community through this difficult period.

They range from state-backed loans, to cash grants, to business rates discounts, to a moratorium on evicting commercial tenants, and much else besides.

Please visit our dedicated coronavirus hub for information and guidance. You can also visit the Government's support hub where you'll find the latest guidance on whether or not your business must close following this week's shutdown. 

If you are impacted by current disruption we'd like to hear from you - please get in touch. We'd be especially keen to hear from you if you are trying to apply for a business interruption loan from your bank or have spoken to your council regarding cash grants.

Support for the self-employed
Last night the Chancellor unveiled an unprecedented Self-Employed Income Support Scheme which will facilitate access to taxable grants worth 80 per cent of  average monthly profits up to £2,500 per month. The scheme will be open for three months with the possibility of an extension. To qualify, you must make the majority of your income through self-employment and have a tax return for 2019. More details can be found online.

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)
The British Business Bank's new CBILS initiative launched on Monday. The scheme will see the Government underwrite 80 per cent of the value of qualifying loans to give lenders the confidence to continue to provide finance to smaller firms during this difficult period. For those with turnovers of up to £45 million, the scheme will support loans of up to £5 million in value. There will be an interest free period for loans taken out through the business interruption loan scheme of 12 months. 

Business rates holiday
Those across England eligible for a 100 per cent business rates holiday for the next 12 months (this will apply if you're in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors, or if you run a letting agent, estate agent, bingo hall or nursery) should start receiving letters from their local authorities from April 1. If you do not receive this letter, we'd encourage you to contact your council directly.  

Eviction protection
As part of the emergency Covid-19 legislation through making its way through Parliament this week, the Government has committed to banning evictions for commercial tenants for three months. FSB is awaiting further information regarding the administration of this commitment.

Facebook group
FSB has launched a new Facebook group for members, small business owners and the self-employed to chat, share best practice and offer support to each other. Now more than 3,000-strong, we'd love you to join in the conversation.

Apprenticeship guidance
As part of cross-government efforts to respond to the impact of COVID-19, the Education and Skills Funding Agency is implementing new measures, for the duration of the pandemic, to make it easier for apprenticeships to continue and complete. The changes will support those that need to pause and resume an apprenticeship at a later date.

THE SMALL BIZ WEEK IN REVIEW

Monday
The week began with Boris Johnson announcing that efforts to mitigate the impacts of coronavirus were being tightened to with a lockdown period of at least three weeks. The government ordered people to stay at home throughout this period except to access essential goods, travel, medical support and exercise.

FSB also relaunched its #ThinkSelfEmployed campaign on Twitter, urging the government to consider the needs to the millions of self-employed people in the UK. We worked tirelessly behind the scenes to secure the support that has now been announced. 

Meanwhile, the new temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, was launched to support small firms trying to access bank lending and overdrafts.

Wednesday
Saw the government announce that 100 per cent business rates relief would be extended to estate agents, letting agencies and bingo halls that have closed due to COVID-19.

FSB Head of Policy Sonali Parekh appeared on BBC Radio 4's Moneybox to explain some of the issues small businesses and the self-employed are facing as the pandemic continues.

Thursday
Saw Chancellor Rishi Sunak announce a multi-billion-pound package of support for the self-employed. FSB National Chairman Mike Cherry appeared on Sky News and Radio 4 after the announcement to discuss the measures, while Director of External Affairs & Advocacy, Craig Beaumont, gave his views to BBC 5Live and answered listeners' questions. 

Friday
This morning Mike Cherry appeared on the Today programme to talk through the newly unveiled Self-Employed Income Support Scheme. He was followed by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell who praised FSB's efforts to secure the fresh support.  

FROM THE CORRIDORS OF POWER

In addition to the previously announced government support package announced last week to cover employees’ wages via the Job Retention Scheme, FSB has worked very hard with Government and MPs to deliver parity of outcome for the self-employed. Self-employed workers can apply for a grant worth 80% of their average monthly profits, up to £2,500 per month. This was announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Thursday evening, mentioning FSB directly.  

Mike Cherry continued to have discussions the Chancellor this week as we work to try and find a solution for the self-employed and parts of our membership during this unprecedented period of economic disruption.

We continue to take part in regular Department for Business conference calls with our opposite numbers from different business groups and trade bodies, to discuss what more the department and Government could be doing to make all the different support packages as accessible and efficacious as possible for small businesses. On Tuesday, BEIS announced that the deadline for filing tax returns would be deferred by three months to ease the burden on small firms.

WESTMINSTER ACTIVITES
Parliament rose for emergency recess on Wednesday after the Coronavirus Bill was passed into law. A provisional return date has been set for 21 April, so MPs can begin voting on the Budget/Finance Bill. Planned changes to off-payroll working tax rules (IR35) have been deferred to 2021.

FSB was mentioned in the context of support for the self-employed during Labour’s Opposition Day to debate on Financial and Emergency Support packages, on Wednesday afternoon.

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