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Coronavirus: Financial support for some excluded traders

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image captionMany small firms the self-employed claim they have been excluded from other support schemes

Stormont ministers have approved financial support for some traders hit by the Covid-19 restrictions, who so far have not received help.

Thursday's executive meeting saw Economy Minister Diane Dodds put forward the plans.

It will be open to those working as mobile hairdressers or people who do not have a premises, like driving instructors.

There will be three different payments.

The Covid Restrictions Business Support Scheme will also help some very small businesses who were left out of a previous scheme, along with people who acted as suppliers to closed businesses.

Supply chain firms like cleaners or catering suppliers may qualify for grants of between £400 and £800 a week.

Smaller supply chain firms, which do not pay business rates, could get £300 a week.

Last week, businesses which were forced to close their premises were told they would be eligible for grants.

That scheme, set up by the Department of Finance, is mainly based on what business rates they pay.

Small firms, including B&Bs, can get £800 for every week they are shut.

Medium sized firms get £1,200 and large firms £1,600 a week.

The executive said that more than 8,000 applications have already been received.

Mrs Dodds said she hoped that her new scheme would open for applications as quickly as possible.

She added that she has also asked her officials to "develop a tourism and hospitality scheme to address the gaps", including support for those who are newly self-employed and unable to access other grants.

Meanwhile a package of £20-25m is being considered for sporting bodies who may have to play games without fans - but that was not signed off by the executive on Thursday.

'Anticipation'

Responding to the measures, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster Colin Neill said his group welcomed the measures.

"We look forward with some anticipation to the development of the tourism and hospitality scheme outlined by the minister today," he said.

He noted that Mrs Dodds had explicitly committed to supporting "traditional pubs who have been closed for a significant period of time.

"Financial support needs to get to everyone in the hospitality sector as quickly as possible," he added.

'Ghost town'

Jim Roddy, manager of Derry's City Centre Initiative, welcomed the financial support but said he will need to seek clarification from the executive over whether this financial help will be offered to the retail sector.

"Obviously I am pleased that the executive is offering much needed financial support.

"But I heard nothing in it [the Stormont briefing] which will be offering support to retail, who are struggling because of an obvious loss of footfall in the high streets. "

Speaking on BBC's The View on Thursday evening the economy minister said she hoped the support scheme for traders will open at the start of next week with payments "very soon thereafter".

Diane Dodds also said she believed that the executive's decision to balance protecting people's health and the economy was not sustainable.

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