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Business / New fund to support businesses not eligible for Covid funding

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BUSINESSES which have not been eligible for government Covid-19 funding could be in line for financial support from a new grant scheme.

Councillors approved establishing a discretionary fund, which will pay out grants of up to £2,000 to local businesses, at a meeting on Wednesday.

Elected members were told that Shetland Islands Council has been provided with nearly £200,000 from the Scottish Government as part of an initial £30 million fund.

Acting economic development manager Tommy Coutts, however, said that this national fund has now increased to £120 million, but a revised offer has not been received by the council yet.

The purpose of this fund is to provide additional support for businesses, and in particular those which have not been eligible for other Covid funding.

This could include those which do not have premises liable for non-domestic rates, and are therefore not eligible for grants attached to the rates system.

There is a specific focus on businesses which have been left without support since October, when the levels system was introduced.

The fund will provide grants of £2,000 to businesses which can provide “evidence of a downturn in activity as a result of Covid-19 restrictions”.

To be eligible for the fund, businesses must be based in Shetland, employ less than 50 people, or be self-employed. They need to have a normal turnover of over £3,000.

Questions were raised by councillors over the £2,000 threshold, and if businesses could be better supported with a larger grant.

They heard there were possible options on the table if the council’s funding pot from the government is increased.

Coutts said he felt that generally the new fund would prove popular.

“I would expect we would see considerable demand for the fund,” he said.

Council chief executive Maggie Sandison also reiterated that the scheme was designed to “plug the existing gap” in national funding available for businesses.

Depute leader Emma Macdonald added that one way local people could also support businesses first-hand was to use their services.

More details on the criteria put forward to councillors can be found here.

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