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Rishi Sunak Announces Grants Of Up To £6,000 For Businesses Affected By Omicron Variant

Rishi Sunak Announces Grants Of Up To £6,000 For Businesses Affected By Omicron Variant

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announces £1 billion in support for hospitality and leisure businesses to deal with impact of Omicron. Credit: Alamy.

4 min read

The Treasury has announced a £1 billion support package for hospitality and leisure businesses suffering from the impact of the spread of Omicron, which will allow pubs and restaurants to claim up to £6000.

The one-off grants are designed to offset some of the harm caused by cancelled bookings and low footfall at what is traditionally the most profitable time of year.

Hospitality UK reported earlier this month that some businesses have lost 40 to 60% of their December trade already. 

“We recognise that the spread of the Omicron variant means businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors are facing huge uncertainty, at a crucial time," chancellor Sunak said.

“So we’re stepping in with £1 billion of support, including a new grant scheme, the reintroduction of the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme and further funding released through the Culture Recovery Fund.

“Ultimately the best thing we can do to support businesses is to get the virus under control, so I urge everyone to Get Boosted Now.”

Around 200,000 businesses will be eligible for business grants which will be administered by local authorities and will be available in the coming weeks.

The Treasury say the grants are the equivalent to the monthly cash grants provided to hospitality businesses when they were fully closed earlier this year, even though they can keep trading.

There will also be £100 million extra for the Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) fund for local authorities in England, who have the discretion to allocate this funding to businesses most in need.

The government will also cover the cost of statutory sick pay for Covid-related absences for small and medium-sized employers with less than 250 staff across the UK. This will be done by reimbursing companies the cost of statutory sick pay for absences of up to two weeks per employer. This scheme starts from today and claims can be made retrospectively from mid-January.

Theatres and museums also suffering in the impact of this latest Covid wave with cancelled shows and bookings will also get more support. The Treasury is boosting the Culture Recovery Fund by £30 million which enables cultural organisations in England to apply for support during the winter up until March 2022.

The measures come after pressure has been mounting on the Chancellor to come forward with more support for businesses who have seen trade come to a standstill in recent weeks.

Businesses have reported mass cancellations for meals and Christmas parties. While there are no restrictions on dining out, the spread of the virus and warnings from both ministers and scientists to be cautious about socialising pre-Christmas has led to a significant reduction in footfall. 

Sunak was heavily criticised before Parliament broke up for recess over a four-day trip he had taken to California when opposition politicians suggested he should have been working on a response to help Covid-striken businesses in the UK.

He cut his trip short, but was criticised again for not attending a Cobra meeting on the virus held on Sunday. 

Matt Barnett, who runs The Bruce Arms in West Tanfield, in Rishi Sunak's constituency of Richmond, North Yorkshire, said financial support is important for businesses but what would be more crucial today is clarity on how they should be running things to enable customers to have more confidence in heading out over the Christmas period. 

"We've already got the tables fairly far apart. Should we be putting in a one way system? I'm mildly concerned about the space in the toilet area – should we be making that one in-one out?," Barnett told PoliticsHome.  

"It's about clarity on what the rules and regulations are expectations are. We did our Covid risk assessment in September but does that now need to be changed?" 

"And on restrictions more generally, we need to know what's happening. We have a bottomless brunch planned for New Years Day and a quiz on December 29.

"If you think back to March 2020, it was understandable that there was some delay on working out what was best to do for the hospitality sector, but we're 18 months on now, and the level of confusion feels just as bad as March 2020. 

"We shouldn't have the feeling of starting from scratch each time."

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