Small manufacturers ‘could get coronavirus grant’

By John Campbell
BBC News NI Economics & Business Editor

  • Published
SterlingImage source, PA Media

The NI Executive is looking at extending a coronavirus support grant to small manufacturers.

The £10,000 grant has already been paid to around 7,000 businesses. However small manufacturers currently do not qualify.

Economy Minister Diane Dodds said she was looking for "Executive support" to bring those businesses into the scheme.

The grant is being paid to firms that qualify for small business rates relief.

Those are businesses which operate from premises with a rateable value of less than £15,000.

However small manufacturing firms do not qualify because they are covered by a different rates relief known as industrial derating.

That gives them a 70% discount on their rates, a substantial benefit in normal economic times.

However, the inability to get the grants is now contributing to hardship.

BBC News NI has been contacted by several small manufacturing businesses in this position.

"We seem to have been missed out from all grant support which was introduced to help businesses exactly like ours," said a worker at a joinery business in County Down.

"We really do rely on such a grant to help us get through this."

"We need to understand why we cannot unlock the grant and therefore support our business in this crisis."

Mrs Dodds suggested about 2,500 businesses were currently in this predicament.

On Tuesday, the finance minister revealed that Northern Ireland had so far received an additional £912m to deal with the Coronavirus crisis.

About 70% of that money, £639m, had already been allocated, said Conor Murphy.

He also announced a cut in business rates and a freeze in domestic rates.