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Highland businesses urged to apply for support before Covid-19 grant schemes close


By Gregor White

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Grant schemes administered by Highland Council are set to stop taking new applications from early next month.
Grant schemes administered by Highland Council are set to stop taking new applications from early next month.

Highland businesses who may be entitled to grant support to help them as they prepare to safely reopen are being encouraged to apply now.

A new deadline of July 10 has been set for applications for support.

The Covid-19 business grant schemes, set up by the Scottish Government to help companies stay in business during the coronavirus crisis, have now paid out over £66,000,000 to almost 6500 Highland businesses.

These schemes include a small business grant scheme supporting businesses in non-domestically rated properties; a bed and breakfast hardship grant scheme and a scheme supporting the newly self-employed.

Highland Council has processed more than 99 per cent of the applications received since the grant schemes opened.

Chairwoman of the council’s development and infrastructure committee, Councillor Trish Robertson, said: "The recent announcements from the Scottish Government regarding easing the lockdown allowing many businesses to reopen over the coming weeks are welcome, however many businesses may have to make adaptations to their premises at a time when they still have little or no income.

"In many cases these business grants could play a significant role in helping these businesses make the investment required to operate safely once they reopen.

"Despite this number of grants being awarded we do, however, know that many businesses who might be eligible for one of these schemes have yet to apply.

"The Scottish Government having recently announced that all the council-managed schemes are to close on Friday, July 10 we are encouraging businesses who have yet to apply to see if they qualify and to get their application in before the deadline if they do."

Business owners can check the information on the Council’s website to see if they are eligible.

Full details on all of the grant schemes and the eligibility criteria can be found here

The Federation of Small Businesses' Highlands and Islands development manager, David Richardson, said: "As the largest business organisation in the Highlands, with the most widely dispersed membership, the FSB is well aware of the pressure that many thousands of businesses have been under right across this region.

"We also know from our own research that local economies in the Highlands and Islands as a whole are more vulnerable to the economic depredations of the virus than elsewhere in Scotland.

"Clearly, restarting the economy will take time and the financial hardship that many are facing now is not going to end on July 15 – businesses have already lost vital trading months and visitor economies can’t go from 0 to 60 overnight. Surviving until next spring is the number one priority.

"Businesses eligible to claim but who have not yet done so and who need the money should get their applications in now."

This week the council launched a Highland Business Guide for shops and businesses to assist them with their plans to safely welcome back customers.

It outlines the steps that businesses and the council are likely to have to make to ensure the safe reopening of premises and sites and to act upon legislation and regulations to protect public health, restrict social gatherings and to maintain physical distancing.

The guide is available here

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