Emergency fund open for businesses hit by restrictions in Wales

·3 min read

Businesses impacted by restrictions imposed by the Welsh Government over Christmas and the new year in response to the Omicron wave can now apply for emergency funding.

Wales’ economy minister Vaughan Gething announced the opening of the Economic Resilience Fund (ERF) at a press briefing on Tuesday.

The £120 million pot has been made available for retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism businesses and their supply chains who were affected by the First Minister’s move to alert level 2 on December 22.

Companies with a 50% reduction in their turnover can apply for grants of between £2,500 and £25,000, dependent on their size and number of employees.

The application window will be open for two weeks, with payments expected to reach businesses within days.

Non-essential retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism businesses in Wales can also receive support from the Non Domestic Rates (NDR) linked grant being administered by local authorities. Businesses will be entitled to a payment of £2,000, £4,000 or £6,000 depending on their rateable value.

There is also a discretionary fund for sole traders, freelancers and taxi drivers and businesses that employ people but do not pay business rates. Last week the sum available was doubled to £1,000.

Asked if the Government could do more to help struggling businesses and families, Mr Gething said: “We’re stepping in where the UK Government has stepped out and left families and businesses in the lurch.

“It chose to take away money from families on Universal Credit, many of which are in work. It has chosen to have a National Insurance hike in April. It knows it could have done something already about energy costs as well.

“It really is for the UK Government to act, and not simply demand that the Welsh Government continues to help people that they have chosen not to support themselves.”

The minister said his focus is on steering “a path to a strong Welsh recovery”, but criticised Westminster for giving Wales “less say over less money”.

“We continue to face many economic challenges, particularly in light of the impact of leaving the European Union and the absence of a UK Government plan for replacing EU funding and reducing inequalities across the UK,” Mr Gething said.

“The people of Wales have not provided a mandate for the UK Government to hijack money and decisions out of Wales.

“Funding certainty and autonomy will allow us to support the reconstruction of our Welsh economy, tailored to Wales’ needs. Following several years of engagement, we have published our plans with partners on how we can make that work.

“The approach the UK Government is taking is a direct threat to this work. It currently leaves Wales with less say over less money.”

Asked if he and the Cabinet would take responsibility over the Rowntree Foundation’s finding that Wales has the highest poverty rate of the four UK nations, Mr Gething agreed poverty levels were “unacceptable”.

But he added: “Direct choices made by UK Government really do matter. The number of children living in poverty has risen in accordance with direct choices made by UK governments about how families are supported.

“Yes we, of course, have a share of the responsibility for all the things that happen in Wales, but you can’t have an honest conversation about this without recognising deliberate choices made by the UK governments, including the recent choice to cut Universal Credit.”

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