Last night's news from the government about the closure of pubs, restaurants, gyms and cafés in order to fight the spread of COVID-19 feels like a body blow to our town, which is built on small businesses. The committee of the ABA want to keep you informed of the help and support that is out there for you, to help you consider all the options available before make any long term decisions. The situation is changing daily so do check the links (below) regularly for updated advice and government assistance measures.
As for the ABA, the new membership year starts on 1 April but we have sufficient money in our reserves to offer all current members a payment holiday for 2020/21, so current members will remain with us for another year. If you pay by Direct Debit email ABA Secretary Sarah Whitelock and we will credit you with the amount you have paid.
We also want to promote all local businesses and make sure that all useful information is shared so we will be liking and sharing anything relevant on our Facebook page - members and non-members. The same is already true of the ABA Instagram page. Whenever there is significant news we will endeavour to keep you informed with an updated newsletter (but please bear in mind that we are all unpaid volunteers).
SUMMARY OF MEASURES RELEVANT TO ABA BUSINESSES:
These are unprecedented and substantial measures so the details may need clarifying and the mechanics still need to be put in place, but the information does at least give you an indication of the help you will be able to access.
All schools to close from yesterday indefinitely, but some will remain open for children of 'key workers’ (see link below)
All pubs, restaurants, cafes, clubs, gyms, theatres and cinemas closed from midnight yesterday until further notice (though pubs, cafes and restaurants can offer take out services)
Wages - if an employee has to be ‘furloughed’ (i.e. their role is no longer required in the current circumstances) then the Government will refund companies 80% of a person’s wage up to £2,500 per month by refunding the company paying the wage (they can of course pay more themselves if they wish). This applies to all employees on the PAYE scheme. HMRC are setting up an online portal to process this
VAT payments for the next quarter will be deferred (applies from 20/3/20 to 30/6/20) such payments do not need to be made until the end of the financial year 20/21
For the self employed Income Tax payments due on 31/7/20 will be deferred until 31/1/2021
Now all businesses in retail, hospitality and leisure will have a business rate holiday for the 20/21 tax year
Businesses in this sector with rateable values of under £15k will receive a cash grant of £10K, with rateable values between £15k and £51k to receive a cash grant of £25k
All small businesses that pay little or no business rates (so currently qualify for taper relief) will receive a cash grant of £10k
Suspension of the minimum income floor for the self employed: self employed people can now access, in full, universal credit at a rate equivalent to SSP (Statutory Sick Pay)
Universal Credit - standard allowance to rise over the next 12 months by £1,000
Insurance - if ordered to close or required to close though infectious disease then Insurances may cover business interruption, but you will need to check your own policy
Additionally measures described in the previous announcement are also in effect:
A Business Interruption Loan Scheme of up to £1.2M per business from the government (through the British Business Bank) - these will be available for application from Monday
Small and Medium Companies (with up to 250 Employees) will receive up to 2 weeks refund on SSP payments for employees reporting sick as a result of COVID-19
Employees need not provide GP evidence of illness or fit-for-work notes, the employee is entitled on day 1 of the sickness
Businesses and self employed may be able to defer tax through applying to the HMRC for their ‘Time to Pay’ Scheme (call 0800 0159 559).
Government Financial Advice page - this is clear, concise and comprehensive
FSB (Federation of small businesses) advice page
Money Advice Service - This is a good general guide from an individual's perspective
The Suffolk Coast Direct Marketing Organisation is also offering 4 months free membership to all tourism related businesses, click here to take advantage of the offer.
You may also find the Visit Britain site useful.
If you do need to lay people off the BBC is reporting that supermarkets are hiring large numbers of new employees.
It’s difficult to remain positive at such a challenging time but the town has survived very tough times in the past and will do again. Stay strong and stay safe,
Sally Ogden (Chair)
Ella Roberts (Vice Chair)
Gary Thompson (Treasurer)
Sarah Whitelock (Secretary)