£1 billion in support for businesses most impacted by Omicron across the UK

Additional support will be available for businesses who have been impacted by the Omicron variant, the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak announced today on 21 December.

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak has stated that the government recognises that the spread of the Omicron variant of Coronavirus means businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors are facing huge uncertainty, at a crucial time.

In keeping with the government’s trend in delivering support to the sector, they have stepped 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.

Mr Sunak also pointed out that “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.”

To support other businesses impacted by Omicron – such as those who supply the hospitality and leisure sectors – the government is also giving a more than £100 million boost to the Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) fund for local authorities in England.

Local Authorities will have discretion to allocate this funding to businesses most in need. The ARG top up will be prioritised for those local authorities that have distributed the most of their existing allocation. This is on top of the £250 million of previously allocated funding that remains with local authorities.

As increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases means more workers taking time off work, the government is also reintroducing the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme (SSPRS).

The SSPRS will help small and medium-sized employers – those with fewer than 250 employees – by reimbursing them for the cost of Statutory Sick Pay for Covid-related absences, for up to 2 weeks per employee. Firms will be eligible for the scheme from today and they will be able to make claims retrospectively from mid-January.

To provide continued support to the cultural sector, £30 million further funding will be made available through the Culture Recovery Fund to support organisations such as theatres, orchestras and museums through the winter to March 2022.

This figure will build on nearly £240 million of cultural grant support already allocated this financial year or currently available for organisations to bid for.

Over the course of the pandemic the UK Government has provided nearly £2 billion to support our vital cultural sector, with the original £1.57 billion round of the Culture Recovery Fund announced in July 2020.

The UK Government is working closely with counterparts in the devolved administrations and businesses across all parts of the UK.

As part of this support announced today, the devolved administrations will receive around £150 million of funding through the Barnett formula, comprising around £80 million for the Scottish Government, £50 million for the Welsh Government and £25 million for the Northern Ireland Executive.

This contributes towards the £860 million of further funding announced by the UK Government in the last week to support the devolved administrations, allowing them to provide additional support to businesses in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as they see fit.

These additional measures will reinforce the existing package of business support, including:

business rates relief meaning that the majority of businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors will see a 75% reduction in their business rates bill across the entire financial year and a new 50% capped business rates relief next financial year

a 12.5% reduced rate of VAT for hospitality and tourism to support the cash flow and viability of around 150,000 businesses and protect over 2.4 million jobs, until the end of March;

the £1.5 billion Covid Additional Relief Fund for businesses that have not previously had business rates support;

businesses will be protected from eviction if they are behind on rent on their premises, thanks to the moratorium in place until March 2022;

access to finance for SMEs through the Recovery Loan Scheme to June; and

Bounce Back Loan repayment flexibility, with borrowers having the option to take a 6 month repayment holiday, three 6 month interest only periods or extend their loan to 10 years, which almost halves the monthly payment.

support for the aviation and travel sectors, including over £12 billion since the beginning of the pandemic, and the Airport and Ground Operations Support Scheme (AGOSS) until the end of March 2022.

HMRC stand ready to support any business impacted by the coronavirus pandemic through its Time to Pay arrangement, and the Chancellor has asked them to offer businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors in particular the option of a short delay, and payment in instalments, on a case by case basis, as part of this.

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