More than £104 million has been paid to more than 9,500 businesses across County Durham to help them deal with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Durham County Council has now processed all of the government’s Business Support Grants and the Local Discretionary Grants, to ease the financial burden on businesses, with both schemes now closed.
A total of 8,862 companies were provided with Business Support Grants of either £10,000 or £25,000, in line with the national scheme, with payments totalling just over £99 million.
After also widening the eligibility for the Local Discretionary Grants Scheme, the council was able to support hundreds more businesses across the county. Through that scheme, it awarded just over £5 million to 701 businesses.
The government closed the Small Business Grant Fund (SBGF), Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund (RHLGF) and the Local Discretionary Grants Fund on 28 August with council staff working tirelessly to process all paperwork and money before 28 September to ensure every eligible business received the grant.
Cllr Carl Marshall, Cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “It was vital to do all we could to help businesses through such a financially difficult time. The survival of our business community is key to supporting the county’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
“Acting quickly, contacting all eligible businesses and ensuring they were aware of the support that was available was vital and I would like to thank our staff for their hard work in doing that during a very challenging period. Their proactive approach has provided a lifeline for many businesses throughout the last six months.”
“In the last few weeks the government has announced a further package of support for those businesses which are required to close as part of a local lockdown and I am confident that, should we be told by government we have to close local businesses, we will make every effort to pay these grants as quickly and efficiently as we administered the previous schemes.
“We will also continue to press the government for a better package of support for all businesses affected by the latest restrictions. It is not only businesses which are required to close that are struggling and we are calling on the government to provide wider financial support to all companies in order to protect the economy.”
A number of businesses across the county have since praised the council for the way it worked with them to establish simple claims processes and provide quick, efficient support.
Gordon Cracknell, the managing director of Cracknell’s Potato Merchants, said: “The grant was extremely helpful. We lost around 80 per cent of our custom in the first few weeks of lockdown, causing a huge loss financially to our business.
“It helped us keep the business afloat and allowed us to continue paying the farmers that were providing us with our stock. As a very small, family run business, with a small number of employees who have worked for us for a long period of time, we’re all very grateful for the support.”
Road marking and civil engineering firm, Jack Coupe and Sons Ltd, has also been supported by the business grants. Moya McGregor, the company secretary, said: “We weren’t expecting to receive a grant so it was a pleasant surprise but will assist with the added and ongoing additional costs for labour and motor costs to enable social distancing, the additional costs of PPE, cleaning and ongoing general costs that coronavirus has impacted on our business.
“We plan on working as hard as we can through 2020 to try and recoup some of the loss and will continue to provide our services as efficiently and effectively as possible despite the hurdles caused by the pandemic.”