First business grants paid as “enormous task” gets under way
More than £5.6 million of grants have been paid to businesses during the first four days of processing with Birmingham City Council staff working across the Easter weekend to increase momentum.
At the end of March, the Government awarded the council grants totalling £231 million to automatically be paid out to eligible companies in the retail, hospital and leisure industries as well as small businesses.
Having received the final Government guidance last Friday (27 March), staff have processed payments to over 700 eligible businesses and trained additional staff to speed up the processing, all of whom will work across the four-day bank holiday.
Cllr Ian Ward, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “We're working around the clock to get this help to Birmingham businesses. These are unprecedented times for everyone, including our officers who are working from home to manage huge volumes of enquiries from residents and businesses who have been affected by COVID-19.
“We know that businesses are desperate to receive the funds and we have trained additional officers who will join the rest of the team in working across the Easter Bank Holiday to deliver a surge in payments going forward.
"We're the biggest local authority in the country, so demand is extremely high and this week we have received nearly 1,500 more calls relating to business enquiries. We've processed almost 1,000 more documents compared to the same period last year which gives an indication of just how busy our team is.
“On top of the day-to-day support, we are working to verify and process 16,000 business grants; process business rate relief and benefit and Council Tax Support applications from residents. All of this at our busiest time of the year when we issue the annual council tax and business rates bills to hundreds of thousands of properties across the city."
The Government announced small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of Small Business Rate Relief or Rural Relief (one grant per business).
It also announced a Retail, Leisure and Hospitality Grant scheme where business in these sectors with a property that has a rateable value of up to £15,000 may be eligible for a grant of £10,000 (one grant per premise) or £25,000 if their property has a rateable value greater than £15,000 but less than £51,000 (one grant per premise).
State Aid limitations may apply.
To speed up the payment process, businesses are being asked to provide bank, business and correspondence details via a new online form, which will provide an acknowledgment email once submitted.
Cllr Ward added: “The council is working to ensure payments are sent to business that meet the specified conditions and in less than one week, it has received 7,000 submissions through the online form. The processing for this does take a considerable amount of time but we are aiming to respond within 21 days.
“What hasn’t helped, is the number of fraudulent claims we have already begun to receive which unfortunately distracts us from making payments to genuine businesses but demonstrates why a thorough verification process is required.”
More information on the grants and a link to the online form, can be found at www.birmingham.gov.uk/coronavirus-support-for-business-grants