CAMBRIDGE City Council has made some important changes to its discretionary grant scheme to enable more small businesses to apply for financial help with the fixed costs and income losses they have suffered during the Coronavirus lockdown.
Since this local grant scheme went ‘live’ on 10 June, more than 150 grants (totalling some £590,000 of government funding) have been paid to small businesses, market and street traders, bed and breakfasts, and charities and not-for-profit organisations in Cambridge.
However, despite following up individual contacts, the number of applications for the fund have tailed off in recent weeks, now that most of those who have previously qualified for the scheme have already taken the opportunity to apply.
To help make sure that even more businesses can benefit from the scheme before the government funding ends in late August, the council is widening grant eligibility to small businesses in particular sectors of the Cambridge economy, which pay business rates. These are the cultural and creative sectors, technology sectors as well as medical services (including dentists, osteopaths, chiropractors and vets) and language schools.
In addition, more charities and not-for-profit organisations can apply now that the scheme has been extended to those with a rateable value or annual rent below £51,000. This is the now same upper limit that applies to small businesses.
In order to focus the remaining government funding on these categories, the council has brought to a close the funding rounds for market and street traders, and bed and breakfasts in Cambridge. Concerted efforts have been made in recent weeks to enable any of them who had not already applied to do so before this happened.
The changes build on the local scheme that has been in place for the last two months. The grant funding levels and eligibility criteria will continue much the same as before.
Payments will be made to eligible organisations on a first come, first served basis. The fund will close to applications at 5pm on 28th August or when all of the money has been paid out, whichever is sooner. Application details are available on the council’s website: www.cambridge.gov.uk/coronavirus-discretionary-grant-fund
Cllr Richard Robertson, Executive Councillor for Finance and Resources, said: “We very much appreciate how difficult it is for organisations that have suffered major loss in income as a result of the pandemic. This has been a really tough time for organisations that were either not able to trade or suffered big reductions in income.
“With the Discretionary Grant Fund we first prioritised smaller business renting shared/serviced premises in Cambridge and smaller charities and not-for-profit organisations. We are now able to provide financial help to other small businesses paying business rates and charities and not-for-profit organisations in larger premises.
“We have been working hard to support businesses throughout this period and I am pleased that we are now able to cast the net wider to help more of those who make such an important contribution to the local economy. All of them employ staff and these grants will help get them back to work.
“I would encourage anyone who feels that their organisation may be eligible to check the details on our website and send us an application for funding that could help them through this crisis.
“We will assess applications and allocate the grants to eligible organisations as quickly as possible and will continue to do all we can to support city businesses.
“The funding available is finite and any money not paid out to businesses by the end of August must be repaid to the government. When it is gone, there will not be any more available.”
The council has been working with partners and business networks to support local businesses throughout the Coronavirus crisis with a range of measures providing nationally-funded support schemes including the Discretionary Grant Fund. As of 31 July the council has paid out around £22 million to around 1400 businesses in the other schemes it has administered e.g. small business and retail, hospitality and leisure grants.