Budget 2020 Support for those affected by COVID-19
The Chancellor has today set out a £12 billion package of temporary, timely and targeted measures to support public services, individuals and businesses through the economic disruption caused by COVID-19.
•The government continues to work closely with the Bank of England and international partners and has announced a three-point plan at the Budget:
1. To support public services:
•The government will provide any extra resources needed by the NHS and other public services to tackle the virus.
•A COVID-19 Response fund, initially set at £5 billion, has been created for:
oThe NHS to treat Coronavirus patients, including maintaining staffing levels
oLocal Authority actions to support social care services and vulnerable people
oEnsuring funding is available so other public services are prepared and protected
•£40 million of new funding for the National Institute for Health Research and theDepartment of Health and Social Care to enable further rapid research into COVID-19 and increase the capacity and capability of diagnostic testing and surveillance facilitated byPublic Health England. This follows the £91 million that the Government has already pledged to the international response.
•A commitment of up to £150 million to the International Monetary Fund’s CatastropheContainment and Relief Trust, to help the effort to stop further transmission, including into the UK, and supporting vulnerable countries as they respond to the outbreak.
2. To support people affected by COVID-19:
•Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will now be available for eligible individuals diagnosed withCOVID-19 or those who are unable to work because they are self-isolating in line withGovernment advice. This is in addition to the change announced by the Prime Minister that SSP will be payable from day 1 instead of day 4 for affected individuals.
•People who are advised to self-isolate for COVID-19 will soon be able to obtain an alternative to the fit note to cover this by contacting NHS 111, rather than visiting a doctor. This can be used by employees where their employers require evidence. Further details will be confirmed shortly.
3. To support businesses experiencing increases in costs or financial disruptions:
•The government will bring forward legislation to allow small- and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19. The eligibility criteria for the scheme will be as follows:
oThis refund will cover up to two weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19
oEmployers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible. The size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020
oEmployers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimedSSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of COVID-19
oEmployers should maintain records of staff absences, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note
oThe eligible period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of Statutory Sick Pay to self-isolators comes into force
oThe government will work with employers over the coming months to set up there payment mechanism for employers as soon as possible. Existing systems are not designed to facilitate employer refunds for SSP.
•The government will increase the Business Rates retail discount to 100% for one year and expand it to the leisure and hospitality sectors, and increase the planned rates discount for pubs to £5,000. Taken together with existing small business rate relief (which provides full relief for businesses using a single property with a rateable value of £12,000 or less), an estimated 900,000 properties, or 45% of all properties in England, will receive 100%business rates relief in 2020/21:oBusinesses that received the retail discount in 2019-20 will be re billed by their local authority as soon as possible
oThose businesses eligible for the newly expanded retail discount and/or the new pubs discount may need to apply to their local authority to receive the discount
oAny enquiries on eligibility for, or provision of, the reliefs should be directed to the relevant local authority
oGuidance for local authorities on the application of the expanded retail discount will be published by MHCLG by 20 March
•The government will provide an additional £2.2 billion funding for local authorities to support small businesses that already pay little or no Business Rates because of SmallBusiness Rate Relief (SBBR). This will provide a one-off grant of £3,000 to around 700,000business currently eligible for SBRR or Rural Rate Relief, to help meet their on going business costs. For a property with a rateable value of £12,000, this is one quarter of the irritable value, or comparable to 3 months of rent.
•A new temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the BritishBusiness Bank, will launch in a matter of weeks to support businesses to access bank lending and overdrafts. The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan (subject to a per-lender cap on claims) to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to SMEs. The government will not charge businesses or banks for this guarantee, and the Scheme will support loans of up to £1.2 million in value.This new guarantee will initially support up to £1 billion of lending on top of current support offered through the British Business Bank.
•All businesses and self-employed people in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time ToPay service. These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities. These businesses can contact HMRC’s new dedicated COVID-19 helpline from 11 March 2020 for advice and support. To ensure on going support, HMRC have made a further 2,000 experienced call handlers available to support firms and individuals when needed.oIf you are concerned about being able to pay your tax due to COVID-19, then callHMRC’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559.
oFor more information, please check the HMRC site here.
More information on other COVID-19 support
•The government’s COVID-19 Action Plan can be found here:gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-action-plan
•If you want more information about the situation in the UK, along with guidance for what to do if you think you’re at risk:oVisit nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/ for information about the virus and how to protect yourself
oUse the NHS 111 online coronavirus service to check if you need medical help