To support businesses during the lockdown fortnight, Welsh Government has announced a £300m financial support package.
The Welsh Government said the funding will complement wage-support schemes available from the UK government and more information would be available shortly.
Key elements of the support package will include:
- an extra £150 million into phase three of the Economic Resilience Fund to support businesses affected by the firebreak
- every operating business covered by the small business rates relief scheme with a rateable value below £12,000 will receive a £1,000 grant payment
- retail, leisure and hospitality businesses which have to close and occupy premises with a rateable value between £12,000 and £50,000 will receive a one-off grant payment of up to £5,000
- there will also be additional discretionary grants and support for smaller businesses which are struggling
A recently announced fund to help businesses develop in the longer term is also being increased from £80m to £100m, with the additional £20m ring-fenced to support tourism and hospitality businesses.
Businesses will be able to access the existing Job Retention Scheme or the newly expanded Job Support Scheme.
The UK Government Job Support Scheme opens on 1 November and runs for six months. It involves companies continuing to pay their employees for the time worked, but the cost of hours not worked would then be split between the employer, the government (through wage support) and the employee (through a wage reduction).
The UK Government will pay a third of hours not worked up to a cap, with the employer also contributing a third. This will ensure employees earn a minimum of 77% of their normal wages, where the Government contribution has not been capped.
Employers using the Job Support Scheme will also be able to claim the Job Retention Bonus if they meet the eligibility criteria.
The Job Retention Bonus is a £1,000 one-off taxable payment to employers, for each eligible employee that was furloughed and kept continuously employed until 31 January 2021.
Employers will be able to claim the bonus between 15 February 2021 and 31 March 2021. Employers do not have to pay this money to their employees.
Announcing the two-week lockdown which starts at 6pm on Friday, First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “It is with a heavy heart that I once again ask everyone to stay at home and businesses to shut.
“We are all tired of coronavirus and the many rules and regulations we all have to live with. We all want to see an end to this pandemic and our lives returned to us. Unfortunately, we do not yet have a vaccine, which will allow us to do that.
“This fire-break is our best chance of regaining control of the virus and avoiding a much longer – and damaging – national lockdown. We have a small window of opportunity to act.
“To be successful, we need everyone’s help. Wales has shown throughout this pandemic that we can come together and take the actions to keep our families and our communities safe.
“We must come together once again to stay ahead of this virus and to save lives.”
The First Minister said he had written to the Chancellor to ask him to give Welsh businesses early access to the new expanded Job Support Scheme from Friday.
He said: “This would remove the need for businesses to juggle the Job Retention Scheme and the Job Support Scheme during this firebreak period. Given the urgency we have offered to pay the extra costs that would be involved in that from Welsh Government funds to help businesses retain staff.
“Only the UK Government has the financial power to guarantee the levels of income support workers need. We need more generous payments to help workers through this crisis.”
Bridgend County Borough Council leader Huw David said: “We will be informing businesses on how they can apply for financial support as soon as we have the details.
“This is a very uncertain time for businesses, we will continue to do all we can to help support them.”
All new grants will be added to the Bridgend County Borough Council webpage when they go live.
The Welsh Government has published a series of frequently asked questions which includes further information for businesses such as estate agents, restaurants, pubs and hairdressers. It includes the following information:
Does my business have to close under the new restrictions?
We will shortly publish a full list of businesses that are required to close temporarily.
We recognise the enormous efforts businesses have made to become safe places. This closure requirement is not a reflection on those efforts and many business environments make a low or moderate contribution only to the risk of transmitting the virus. But at this stage, minimising any contribution to the spread of the virus is important, which is why we are requiring certain businesses to close temporarily.
Can hairdressers and beauty salons stay open?
No. All close contact services including hairdressers, barbers, beauticians, tattooists, and sports and massage therapists are required to close.
Are cafes, restaurants, pubs and bars able to open?
These premises are allowed to open for takeaway services only. Food and drink may not be consumed at the premises. Physical distancing measures will be applied, and customers and staff will be required to wear a face covering.
What entertainment venues are closed?
All entertainment venues, such as cinemas, theatres and bowling alleys, must be closed. Please see the business closures guidance for more information.
I run a business that has been closed due to the new restrictions. Is there any support available?
Yes – please see our pages on financial support for businesses
Can I move home?
Yes, if you can’t delay the moving date until after the short lockdown period is over. Associated activities, for example, removals processes, property preparation, handover of keys, surveys and valuations can also take place in line with guidance on working in other people’s homes.
Can home viewings take place?
No. Property viewings cannot take place during the circuit breaker period and high street estate agencies are required to close. Virtual viewings can continue.
Can a mortgage survey be done at my property?
Surveyors should not enter occupied properties during the lockdown period. Vacant properties can be entered and street level surveys can take place.