Business Secretary Alok Sharma addressed businesses yesterday (1 April 2020) in the government’s daily press briefing on COVID-19, noting the availability of businesses rates relief, grants for firms on the high street and provided a stern word for any banks unfairly refusing funds to “good businesses in financial difficulty.”
The Business Secretary said: “Our businesses are doing all they can to support our people, and I want to make it clear that government, in turn, will do all it can to support our businesses. We have taken unprecedented action to support firms, safeguard jobs and protect the economy.
“From today (1 April) businesses will start benefiting from £22 billion in the form of business rates relief. And grants of up to £25,000 which are being paid into the bank accounts of the smallest high street firms.
“On Saturday, I said that we had provided funds to councils in England for grants to small businesses. As of today, these local authorities have received more than £12 billion.
“This afternoon I held a call with hundreds of local authorities across England and made clear that this money must reach businesses as quickly as possible. And I know that businesses across England have already started to receive these grants.
“We know high street banks are working really hard to support the UK through this period, including through mortgage holidays and increased credit facilities.
“Loans for businesses are also being issued through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme since it came into operation last week.
“The Chancellor, together with the Bank of England and Financial Conduct Authority, wrote to the chief executives of the UK banks to urge them to make sure that the benefits of the Loan Scheme are passed through to businesses and consumers.
“And it would be completely unacceptable if any banks were unfairly refusing funds to good businesses in financial difficulty.
“Just as the taxpayer stepped in to help the banks back in 2008, we will work with the banks to do everything they can to repay that favour and support the businesses and people of the United Kingdom in their time of need.
“Of course, this is a brand new scheme and, as with all new schemes, it will not be perfect from the outset.
“We are listening all the time. And in response to concerns that we’ve heard from businesses, we are looking at ways in which we can ensure they get the support they need. The Chancellor will be saying more on this in the coming days.
“It is crucial that when we overcome this crisis, as in time we will, that businesses are in a good position to move forward.
“Times are tough, and we have harder times ahead of us.
“But I know that together, we will pull through.”