The Prime Ministerial broadcast last Monday made it clear that the easing of the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions this time around will be a phased and not an overnight approach. With the furlough scheme extended there is some continued support for businesses, which will hopefully help to protect jobs. The roadmap which he has published has announced the earliest dates by which restrictions will be relaxed, if the rate of infection continues to fall, but he also made it clear that he could not guarantee his plan would not be irreversible. In his words “the intention is that it should be”. Hotels and indoor hospitality will not reopen before the middle of May and even then limits will remain on the number of people who can meet up. This will present a continued challenge to our local economy which as a coastal town, relies so heavily on this sector.
Given the current situation, Eastbourne Council have been exploring what additional support can be given to small businesses, within the guidelines of the Government “Additional Restrictions Grant” (ARG). This was designed primarily to support businesses that were mandated to close but were not eligible for grants under former schemes. This review has identified an opportunity to provide small grant support for taxi drivers and private hire businesses. it will also be possible to provide payments to micro, small and medium sized businesses that are still trading but have suffered a significant downturn in income, as well as those who were mandated to close by Government.
As we begin to emerge from the lockdown, it is vitally important that we continue to assist businesses through the recovery who may have had to or will need to adapt or re-purpose to ensure survival. A business adaptation grant will be available for businesses in the form of capital funding, to claim for expenses such as training or upskilling new staff, expansion of an existing business or costs associated with adaptation as a result of the pandemic e.g. diversification into online retail. Details of these schemes will appear shortly on the Council website. The impact of the pandemic has in both health and financial terms been devastating, but I remain optimistic that we can and will recover from it.