Emergency coronavirus funds worth £1.5bn unclaimed

Around £1.5bn of emergency coronavirus funding for small business remains unspent with less than a month to go until the deadline for applications closes.

The Federation of Small Businesses is urging any firms yet to sign up to do so before the deadline, while at the same time urging councils to ensure the speedy issuance of them.

Four months after £12bn was released to help small business through the crisis, the business group says that councils across England have distributed on average 92% of the funds and that only 23 councils (7%) of councils have issued 100% of funds.

The FSB is also calling on the Treasury to issue another 5% (£617m) in discretionary funds to help those left out.

The FSB said: “With some councils having already closed applications for the Discretionary Grants Fund and with more than £1 bn in funds still in the coffers of councils, FSB is urging all local authorities to expedite the issuance of these funds whether it be the Discretionary Grant Fund or the Small Business Grants Fund.”

Mike Cherry, FSB national chair  said: “Small businesses have been through what for many has been and will be the most difficult period they have ever faced, and while things are slowly starting to improve, we’re not out of the woods yet.

“That is why we are making this call today for small firms to apply as soon as possible so that they don’t miss out on grant funding that could prevent a business from going under.

“But to access these funds, small firms rely on their local councils to distribute the money in a fast and timely manner.

“Every local authority will know that long before this crisis struck, small firms were already facing huge difficulties with major chains leaving high streets, rising business rates and soaring employment costs. This is why councils simply cannot afford to delay in getting these funds out to businesses.

“Many councils have already handed out more than 90 per cent of their Small Business Grants which is good to see, but that means that more money remains which needs to be handed out.

“But as we recently said in a major FSB report, now is the time for the Government and the Treasury to make the next step. Back in May, a discretionary fund was set up to accommodate certain small businesses previously outside the scope of other grants, such as limited company directors and those in the supply chains of the leisure and retail sectors. Now is the time for this five per cent Discretionary Fund, to be repeated.

“We want to see this £617m fund issued to councils so that they can help small businesses that may have missed out on initial funding or may not qualify for other grants. This will go some way to helping councils safeguard the future of the local businesses and communities.

“For small businesses, councils and government, now is not the time to delay. With some sectors still struggling to reopen, lock lockdowns curtailing efforts by firms to get back to business and the spectre of a potential second wave of the virus, we must, we must act now and take the necessary steps needed to prop up small firms who are the backbone of the economy.”