Businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors are to receive a one-off grant worth up to £9,000 to keep them afloat during the third national lockdown, chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak has announced.
In a televised address, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors would be forced to close, while millions of workers would once again be asked to work from home.
Schools will also be closed – something that did not happen during the second lockdown in November – meaning parents will have to juggle work and homeschooling commitments until at least the middle of February.
The grants will be worth up to £9,000 per property – meaning businesses trading from more than one site will qualify for more than one grant.
The grant is expected to benefit over 600,000 business properties, worth £4 billion in total across all nations of the UK.
Businesses with a rateable value of £15,000 or under will receive £4,000. For businesses with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000, the grant will be worth £6,000. And businesses with a rateable value of over £51,000 will get the full £9,000.
Separately, a £594 million discretionary fund also made available to support other impacted businesses.
The announcement from the Treasury follows Prime Minister’s announcement last night (Monday) that these businesses will be closed until at least February half-term in order to help control the spread of coronavirus.
"The new strain of the virus presents us all with a huge challenge - and whilst the vaccine is being rolled out, we have needed to tighten restrictions further," the chancellor said.
"Throughout the pandemic, we’ve taken swift action to protect lives and livelihoods and today we’re announcing a further cash injection to support businesses and jobs until the Spring.
"This will help businesses to get through the months ahead – and crucially it will help sustain jobs, so workers can be ready to return when they are able to reopen."
News of a third national lockdown was reluctantly accepted by business groups.
Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “Businesses will understand why the Prime Minister has felt compelled to act on the spiralling threat to public health, but they will be baffled and disappointed by the fact that he did not announce additional support for affected businesses alongside these new restrictions.
“The lockdowns announced in England and Scotland today are a body blow to our business communities, hard on the heels of lost trade during the festive season and uncertainty linked to the end of the Brexit transition period. Tens of thousands of firms are already in a precarious position, and now face a period of further hardship and difficulty.
“Billions have already been spent helping good firms to survive this unprecedented crisis and to save jobs. These businesses must not be allowed to fail now, when the vaccine rollout provides light at the end of this long tunnel.
"The financial support for businesses needs to be stepped up in line with the devastating restrictions being placed on them. Otherwise, many of these firms may simply not be there to power our recovery when we emerge once again.
“Enhanced support for businesses, a turbo-charged vaccine rollout, and delivery of existing promises on mass testing must be delivered to enable the UK to restart, rebuild and renew.”