UK: The government has confirmed that the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grants Fund (RHLGF), the Small Business Grants Fund (SBGF) and the Discretionary Grant Fund should close by 28 August 2020.
The funds are allocated to local authorities to pay businesses that have suffered from the impact of COVID-19.
The original grant schemes were set up on 23 March 2020, and were supplemented by the Discretion Grant Fund set up in May.
According to data published by the government, £1.58 billion of the grants funds are still to be distributed. This has been primarily because of State Aid Rules which prevented some businesses with multiple properties from accessing all the grants.
Colliers International is now calling for this to be distributed to those small businesses, retailers and hospitality companies who have not received grant monies or the later £617 million Discretionary Fund.
“We have had a bizarre scenario where there are some areas of the country with still “too much grant” to pay out, such as Cornwall who has paid out £235 million of its whopping £281 million grant,” said John Webber, head of business rates at Colliers International, “but other parts of the country where the grant allocations were simply not big enough.”
London only received £14.74 million allocation, and due to its high density of retail, hospitality and office businesses, the funds were quickly oversubscribed.
Initial grants were also based on a company’s rateable value. However, because RV is based on rents, many London retail and hospitality businesses were not eligible given the high level of rents in London compared to elsewhere.
Webber continued: “It’s been a postcode lottery as to how and if a business actually managed to benefit from these grants. In terms of the discretionary grant fund, businesses also had to evidence a loss of income resulting from Covid 19 to receive grant monies, and different boroughs gave different deadline dates and conditions for applications. It’s been confusing and inconsistent.”
“Now the government has announced the end of all the grant schemes, we urge any retailer or hospitality business to get their claim in as soon as possible. The VOA is under resourced at the moment and there are some delays in claims being processed. The deadline date of August 28 may mean many may run out of time to claim.”
He added: “We are therefore petitioning that the government takes this into account and rather than return unused grant monies to BEIS, it redistributes the £1.58 billion left to support those businesses, who have still missed out on funds so far, or reconsiders the hard deadline. Supporting our retail and hospitality businesses are vital if we are to get the UK economy back on its feet.”