Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to offer over 700,000 retail, hospitality and other businesses grants of up to £18,000 as part of a £5bn rescue package to be included in his Budget speech on Wednesday (3 March).
The new ‘Restart Grants’ will be directly distributed from local authorities from April and will replace the current grant system.
Speaking to Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday the chancellor said: “We know that particularly businesses in hospitality, leisure, accommodation and retail have been affected by the restrictions…We want to support them as they reopen, we want to support them to keep staff, to pay bills and that’s why we’re launching the Restart Grants which we paid in April, worth £5bn in total.”
Under the scheme it is thought that non-essential retail businesses will be able to apply for grants of up to £6,000, while pubs, restaurants, hotels and leisure businesses will be able to apply for grants up to the full amount of £18,000.
Last week it was revealed that the chancellor is also expected to announce a further extension to the government’s furlough scheme until May.
According to The Times, the move is expected after Boris Johnson promised not to “pull the rug out” from businesses when restrictions eventually begin to ease under his new reopening roadmap.
The paper also cites government sources that following the May extension, the scheme will begin to be gradually wound down. It is thought that Sunak is also looking to reinstate a scheme that will see a one-off payment given to businesses that bring back furloughed workers.
The latest furlough figures from the ONS showed that furloughing of staff in the wholesale and retail sector peaked on 24 April at 1.9 million furloughed. This dropped to 356,400 employments furloughed at 31 October. The number of people furloughed then increased in November to 739,400 at 30 November. Provisional figures show that by the end of December this had decreased to 689,500 people currently placed on furlough.