welcome to the covid-19 business support page
We are here for you – focused on your needs through good times and tough times
I’ll be honest – in 26 years I have never known anything like this. However, I am not scared of overcoming problems.
In 1994 I started Focus in the middle of a recession. We weathered the banking crisis in 2008.
Like many businesses we were just starting to reap the benefits of hard work and determination – then this!
However this will end and I am going to focus on what we can do now, which is to be of as much help to our customers as we can.
We have therefore created this support hub with lots of useful information and resources.
I have worked with businesses of all shapes and size for three decades. Our phones and emails are open, so get in touch any time, whether you need some advice, suggestions or just a chat to offload.
are you a focus client?
If we have arranged finance agreements for you in the past, and your business has been affected by COVID-19 then please get in touch with us as soon as possible.
Please do not just cancel your direct debits as this will then put your account into arrears which could affect your ability to obtain funding in the future.
Please email us and we will provide full details of any agreements we have arranged for you, together with the process to follow to request a payment holiday to help get through this difficult time.
The feedback we have had from our clients so far is that the funders are being very accommodating, providing payment holidays for 3 months, and in some cases up to 6 months.
do you need finance?
Understandably many business are on “pause” at the moment. However, some sectors have been able to diversify into other areas, and a few industries are busier than ever.
For those companies who have not been affected, we can offer our usual range of finance solutions. In the interest of responsible lending more information than usual may be requested to demonstrate that affordability is still in place, and that an immediate payment holiday will not be requested.
If you have recently purchased assets for your business and wish that you had retained your cash for working capital it may be possible to refinance these.
If you, like many other businesses, will be struggling with cash-flow over the coming months, then have a look below at the measures that have been put in place to assist.
We have detailed below some of the measures that have been put in place and help available. Whilst we will do our best to ensure the information provided is up to date and from a reputable source, please do your own research to ensure it is correct and current where appropriate.
Whether on a business or personal front, make a note of any help you have requested and any measures you have taken, in case needed for the future.
Please also beware of emails or other communication received that may be spam – whilst we are #inittogether there will always be someone happy to profit from someone else’s misfortune.
government support for businesses
The government website gives you all the information you may need, but we have summarised the information to give you an insight of what you may be eligible for.
This supports SMEs with quick access to a loan of between £2,000 and £50,000 subject to maximum of 25% of annual turnover.
Loans will be 100% government backed for lenders, and businesses can apply online through a short and simple form.
This is a 6 year loan with no early repayment penalties. The interest rate is fixed at 2.5%. The government will cover the first 12 months’ interest, and no capital repayments are required in the first year.
UK based businesses, who have not already applied for a bounce back loan, and have been impacted by COVID-19.
Whilst new providers are coming through, we would suggest you initially apply through your usual relationship bank. Whilst some banks are offering BBL to non customers, it is likely to take longer as a “feeder” account will need too be set up first.
Any business that has already taken out a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan of £50,000 or less can apply to have these switched over to this generous new scheme.
All UK employers are eligible for a grant to enable them to pay part of their employees’ salaries for those employees that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis.
All UK businesses are eligible. Employees must have been on the payroll on 28 February 2020.
Designate employees who are affected as “furloughed workers”, and notify them of this change. Submit the employee and earnings details to the HMRC’s online portal (details to be confirmed).
Up to 80% of a furloughed employee’s wages can be reimbursed, up to a maximum of £2500 per month. This will be backdated to 1 March and will be for an initial 3 months (but may be extended).
The minimum furlough period is 3 weeks.
A furloughed employee may undertake training but must not provide services to their employer whilst furloughed.
They make do other voluntary or paid work provided it does not conflict with the terms of their employment contract.
No VAT payment will be required for businesses within the period from 20 March 2020 to 30 June 2020.
All UK businesses are eligible.
This is an automatic offer, so no applications are required. You should however still submit your VAT return as usual. You will then be given until the end of tax year 2020-2021 to pay any liabilities built up within this period.
VAT refunds will be paid as usual throughout this period. Please note that if you normally pay your VAT payment by direct debit, you should cancel this to avoid collection.
Any income tax self-assessment payments due by 31/07/2020 have been deferred until 31/01/2021.
Self-employed individuals are eligible.
This is an automatic offer, so no applications are required. There will be no penalties or late payment notices issued those who make their income tax payment by the 31/01/2021.
HMRC have also scaled up their Time to Pay offer.
The Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will support self-employed individuals (including members of partnerships) who have lost income due to coronavirus (COVID-19).
You can apply if you’re a self-employed individual or a member of a partnership and you:
- have submitted your Income Tax Self Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018-19
- traded in the tax year 2019-20
- are trading when you apply, or would be except for COVID-19
- intend to continue to trade in the tax year 2020-21
- have lost trading/partnership trading profits due to COVID-19
- your self-employed trading profits must also be less than £50,000 and more than half of your income come from self-employment.
You cannot apply for this scheme yet. HMRC will contact you if you are eligible for the scheme and invite you to apply online. Individuals do not need to contact HMRC now and doing so will only delay the urgent work being undertaken to introduce the scheme.
This scheme will allow you to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of your trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next 3 months. This may be extended if needed.
Full information can be found here:
To allow small and medium business to reclaim SSP for an employee, this will cover up to 2 weeks’ worth for an employee affected by COVID-19 whether self-isolating, or showing symptoms.
Employers with fewer than 250 employees as at 28 February 2020.
Employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP. There will be no requirement for the employee to provide a fit note from their GP. The mechanism for reclaiming SSP paid is in process.
If as an employer, you decide to request evidence, those with symptoms can obtain a note from NHS 111 online. If the employee lives with someone who was showing symptoms, they can get an isolation note from the NHS website.
This supports SMEs with access to asset finance, invoice finance, overdraft & loan facilities up to £5 million through the British Business Bank. A Business Interruption Payment will be made by the government to cover any interest and fees for the first year of these agreements.
UK based businesses, whose turnover doesn’t exceed £45 million per year. The scheme is designed to support smaller businesses (SMEs) who don’t meet a lender’s normal lending requirements for a fully commercial loan or other facility, but who are considered viable in the longer-term. Please be aware that if the lender can offer finance on normal commercial terms without the need to make use of the scheme, they will do so.
The government is channelling this through existing scheme participants including the major UK banks. We would therefore suggest you initially explore the support you can access through your usual relationship bank. It is likely they will require accounting information such as management information, and bank statements to get a good idea of the financial position of the business. You will be able to fund a maximum of 25% of your 2019 turnover or double the annual wage bill.
Not every accredited lender will offer each type of facility, and you can find out more information regarding each lender on their individual websites. You can find answers to frequently asked questions here.
The government has introduced a business rates holiday for certain sectors for the 2020-2021 tax year.
Businesses in the retail, hospitality or leisure sectors based in England.
You do not need to take any action, as the relief will apply to your next bill in April 2020.
This applies to occupied premises.
This provides a cash grant of up to £25,000 per property.
Businesses in England in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors with a rateable value of £51,000 or less.
You do not need to take any action. Your local authority will write to you if you are eligible for the grant.
Those with premises that have a rateable value of under £15,000 will receive a grant of £10,000.
Those with premises that have a rateable value of £15,001 to £51,000 will receive a grant of £25,000.
This provides a cash grant to small businesses that pay little or no business rates.
Small business based in England already receiving small business rate relief (SBRR), rural rate relief (RRR) or tapered relief.
You do not need to take any action. Your local authority will write to you if you are eligible for the grant.
This will provide a one off grant of up to £10,000 to help meet your ongoing business costs.
This facility is designed to support liquidity among larger firms, helping them to bridge coronavirus disruption to their cash flows through the purchase of short-term debt in the form of commercial paper.
In practice, firms that meet this requirement would normally be:
UK incorporated companies, including those with foreign-incorporated parents and with a genuine business in the UK; companies with significant employment in the UK; firms with their headquarters in the UK. We will also consider whether the company generates significant revenues in the UK, serves a large number of customers in the UK or has a number of operating sites in the UK.
The facility is open to firms that can demonstrate they were in sound financial health prior to the shock, allowing us to look through temporary impacts on firms’ balance sheets and cash flows from the shock itself. This means companies that had a short or long-term rating of investment grade, as at 1 March 2020, or equivalent.
More information can be found here:
All businesses and self-employed people in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time To Pay service.
These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities.
You are eligible if you pay tax to the UK government and have outstanding tax liabilities.
If you have missed a tax payment or you might miss your next payment due to COVID-19, call the HMRC’s dedicated helpline – 0800 0159 559.
other support for businesses
There are many other organisations who are doing their best to support businesses, to make sure we all come out the other side. As we come across any information we will update it here, in case you find it helpful.
Businesses will be given an additional 3 months to file accounts with Companies House to help companies avoid penalties as they deal with the impact of COVID-19.
You can apply for an extension here.
The government has advised that until 30.06.20, commercial tenants are protected from eviction if they are unable to make rental payments.
All commercial tenants in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are eligible.
An important distinction to make, is that this isn’t a payment holiday, as tenants will still be liable to make the payments, but they will be protected from eviction should this not be possible given the current situation.
If you feel you may struggle to keep up with your rent payments, then discuss options with your landlord directly.
These measures will mean no business will automatically forfeit their lease and be forced out of their premises if they miss a payment up until 30 June.
There is the option for the government to extend this period if needed.
Most commercial insurance policies are unlikely to cover pandemics or unspecified notifiable diseases, such as COVID-19.
However, those businesses which have an insurance policy that covers government ordered closure and pandemics or government ordered closure and unspecified notifiable disease should be able to make a claim (subject to the terms and conditions of their policy).
Insurance policies differ significantly, so businesses are encouraged to check the terms and conditions of their specific policy and contact their providers.
Of course insurance isn’t something we are experts in, but as I am sure this is something you are looking at and trying to work out, I have found a useful FAQ for this sector:
There is also some additional information on the government website, suggesting that if your policy covers government ordered closures or pandemics you should be able to claim for Business Interruption:
As mentioned above many funders are happy to consider payment holidays, often up to 6 months. This is provided that your agreement is currently up to date and that your business has been impacted by COVID-19.
It is very important that you contact your funder to discuss rather than just cancelling your direct debit.
more personal help
Whether your are a business owner or director, or an employee impacted by reduced income, here are some ideas to help you manage.
If you agree a payment holiday with any lender, they should record these in such a way that will not impact on your credit score
The government has agreed with mortgage lenders that they will offer repayment holidays of 3 months to households in financial difficulty due to COVID-19.
The offer of a payment holiday can be made available to customers who are up to date with payments and not already in arrears.
Customers who are concerned about their current financial situation should contact their lender at the earliest possible opportunity to discuss if this is a suitable option for them.
Please check with your own council, but here is an extract from support provided for Council Tax by one council.
New measures to help families with their Council Tax through the Covid-19 crisis:
✅ If you’re struggling to pay your Council Tax then please contact us and we will work with you to agree payment options. If possible, please have your council tax number to hand when phoning.
✅ If you’re on a 10 month direct debit then you can opt for April/May this year as your non-payment months instead of February/March 2021.
✅ If you’re currently on a 12 month direct debit then we can condense your payments over 10 months, so you do not have to pay anything in April/May this year.
✅ Working age residents who benefit from our current Council Tax Support Scheme will receive an additional £150 reduction to their bill in line with the government’s hardship fund criteria. Those households eligible for this reduction will automatically be re-billed.
As gyms have been forced to close, you are not receiving the service you have subscribed to. Some of the larger gym groups have automatically emailed their customers advising they will not be collecting monthly membership fees until they are open again.
If you have not received communication from your gym then get in touch with them now.
If you have not already heard from your credit card company it could be worth a call.
Here is an extract from an email from Barclaycard:
“Whether you would like additional support with managing your Barclaycard, or have faced disruption to finances or travel plans, we can work with you to look at ways to make things easier. To help with this, we will be stopping late payment and cash advance fees for Barclaycard customers for the next 90 days – we’ll take care of this, so you won’t need to call us.”
The government has introduced a temporary new law to deal with Coronavirus disruption.
Employees and workers can carry over up to 4 weeks’ paid holiday over a 2-year period, if they cannot take holiday due to Coronavirus.
You can find more detail here:
From 30 March 2020, you can get a 6 month exemption for the MOT on your personal car.
However, please be aware that you can still be prosecuted for driving an unsafe vehicle, so you still need to make sure your car is roadworthy. Garages will remain open for urgent repairs.
Over the last 26 years, our core aim has been ensuring that we are building strong, long lasting relationships with customers. I think now more than ever this will be tested, but the main message remains the same – we are here to help you find the best solution in any circumstance. Even if ultimately we are not the best people for your particular requirement, we will be honest in pointing you in the right direction.