To help our tenants respond to the impact of COVID-19, we are sharing important updates about how the Foundation is working with our tenants during this time, and how you can access government grants and funding to support your business.
A few words from Mark Coles, Executive Director, Property
We are all craving certainty in this very uncertain environment. We have been keeping a close eye on developments about the possible easing of restrictions on business. Although there are signs of progress for some sectors, it is difficult to predict when a return to full operations will be allowed. This has made it hard for everyone, including the Foundation, to plan and make decisions for the longer term. We are working with our Board of Trustees to find the best way forward as our income has dropped 50% compared to our budget.
Our role in the community as a charitable foundation is multi-faceted and we serve a diverse population with a range of needs. This of course includes you our business tenants, but also local charities and community groups who are providing vital support to the most vulnerable people in our community. All of you form a critical network that is the bedrock of Letchworth Garden City.
As you may be aware, the government has announced a number of favourable schemes and grants that are specifically designed to help businesses sustain their operations during this time. The details of these schemes are provided below, and we do encourage you to seek out and take any support that is on offer. We believe that this will enable many businesses to at least remain in place and be able to work through this crisis.
As a Foundation, we are fully committed to serving our entire community. Our message to our tenants is to keep talking to our team. With all of us working together and adapting to the situation in a positive way, we will be able to navigate this period of uncertainty together.
What’s new from the government?
Manufacturing and construction encouraged to go back to work
Earlier this month, the government announced updated social distancing measures. As part of this, they encouraged manufacturing and construction companies that hadn’t reopened since the lockdown to go back to work. They have published guidance for employers on how to operate safely as the pandemic continues. This covers construction sites, manufacturing plants, labs, warehouses and offices to name a few.
Timeline for retailers to return to work
On Bank Holiday Monday the Prime Minister provided some more certainty about when retailers will be allowed to reopen for business.
Open air markets and car dealerships will be able to open from 1 June, as soon as they are able to meet the COVID-19 secure guidelines to protect shoppers and workers.
All other non-essential retail including shops selling clothes, shoes, toys, furniture, books, and electronics, plus tailors, auction houses, photography studios, and indoor markets, will be expected to be able to reopen from 15 June if the government’s five tests are met and they follow the COVID-19 secure guidelines.
More on Bounce Back Loans
Last month the government unveiled its new Bounce Back Loans to help businesses who have lost revenue or have had their cashflow disrupted. These are aimed at smaller companies who aren’t eligible for other support packages.
Here’s a summary of the key features:
- You can borrow anything from £2,000 up to £50,000
- No interest will be charged for the first 12 months
- You don’t have to make any repayments in the first 12 months
- You can repay early without penalties
- This is a government backed scheme, so you don’t need to worry about houses, cars or other assets being secured against the loan.
We thought Martin Lewis’ article on Money Saving Expert website gave a good overview of the scheme. Read what he has to say.
Furlough scheme extended to October 2020
The government is set to announce further details later this week about its Job Retention Scheme.
While the scheme is set to run until October, it’s understood that from August, employers will be expected to pay between 20-30% of employees’ wages as restrictions are eased. And employers will also have to pay a percentage of national insurance contributions.
What is available at a local level?
Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP)
The LEP has launched a £3.28m support package to help businesses who have been impacted by COVID-19. These include:
- Crowdfund Hertfordshire: Small Business Innovation Fund which is administered by Visit Herts. This fund will support small and micro businesses within the tourism, leisure, hospitality, retail, arts and cultural sectors.
- Hertfordshire Business Expansion Grant Scheme is open to all SMEs (some eligibility criteria apply). Grants for capital expenditure range from £10k - £100k and will require a minimum £1 for £1 match and the creation of at least one new job.
The Volunteer Business Support Scheme has been set up to provide additional peer-to-peer advice and support to businesses affected by COVID-19. If your business is interested in benefitting from the scheme you should initially contact the Hertfordshire Growth Hub, who will refer eligible businesses on to the scheme. Businesses will be matched to a volunteer who will be able to provide help and guidance aligned to business need.
If you are an experienced business professional and would like to become a volunteer to support other companies through this difficult time, you can sign up via the University of Hertfordshire website
Support from North Herts District Council
North Herts District Council has announced details of its new discretionary grants scheme
Their website also includes information on:
- Small Business Grant Fund
- Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund
- Self Employment Income Support Scheme
Visit their dedicated webpage for more details.
Other sources of funding for younger business owners – The Prince’s Trust & NatWest
The Prince’s Trust and NatWest have launched a £5million Enterprise Relief Fund to support young business owners and entrepreneurs to keep their businesses going during the COVID-19 crisis. Grants are available to 18 to 30-year olds across the UK who are self-employed and/or running their own business. In conjunction with cash grants, the initiative will offer one-to-one support and guidance to anyone who needs it and who may be worried about their future.
Read more on the Prince’s Trust website.
Latest from the Foundation
June rent and service charge payments
Later this week, we will be sending out our June rent and service charge payments which will be sent out in its usual format showing the full amount. If you have made financial arrangements with us, don’t worry, you simply pay the agreed amount. Our statements are automatically generated for accounting purposes, so no need to be concerned.
Don’t forget to change your standing order
If you pay your rent or other charges by standing order, remember you will need to adjust this to reflect any changes to your payment plan.
As we stated at the start of this crisis, we have reduced contributions towards the sinking funds where possible for the period 24 June - 24 December 2020. Credit will be applied to your charges for this period.
If you need any help or guidance about your payments, you can speak to a member of Rapley’s finance team on 01480 371 429 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Reminder to get in touch!
If you have yet to speak to us about your tenancy and need guidance, please contact the property team by emailing email@example.com.
Mark, Joe and Clare are here to advise and support you during this challenging time, so please do get in touch. If for any reason you haven’t heard back from us, please try again as we are still dealing with a high volume of calls and emails.
Is this the best email address for updates?
Every week there are announcements by the government and other agencies, and it can be overwhelming to keep track of what is happening. That’s why we want to keep in touch with you on a regular basis to ensure you have the latest information and support. To do so, we need to ensure we have the best email address. To update your details, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To support you over the coming months, we would like to launch a regular e-newsletter for our tenants. To ensure it doesn’t get blocked by your email system, we would need a named person to send it to. Please do let us know if you would like to sign up for our e-newsletter.