This week, the £40 million Hardship Fund, which is aimed at Northern Ireland based micro-businesses and social enterprises unable to access other regional and national COVID-19 support measures, has opened for applications.
Although NITA welcomes this support, which it has been advocating since the start of the crisis, and acknowledges it has supported some tourism businesses, there are many tourism businesses who do not meet the eligibility criteria and have once again been left struggling.
NITA has been working to ensure the tourism voice is heard with our initial focus on ensuring that tourism businesses got access to financial support as the industry at the forefront of the catastrophic economic impact of COVID-19. It became clear from an early stage there were a significant amount of tourism business that fell outside of existing grant support and NITA advocated for a further package of support for those companies that fell outside the scope of the £10K and £25K grants which were linked to business rates.
We were disappointed that the scope of the scheme has limited meaning many tourism businesses do not meet the eligibility criteria. 50% of the respondents to the TNI survey last month said they were not registered for PAYE, the main criterion of the NI Micro Business Hardship Fund.
The type of businesses that have been excluded include start-up tourism businesses, B&B’s, self catering and experience providers – all an important part of the tourism ecosystem.
This has been raised with the Department and NITA will continue to lobby for flexibility in the application of the criteria.
To check if you meet the current criteria, an online eligible checker and access to the scheme can be found here: https://nibusinessinfo.co.uk/content/coronavirus-get-ready-apply-ni-micro-business-hardship-fund