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The council has processed over £10 million of government grants in a matter of days to help local businesses stay afloat during the current coronavirus crisis.
The government has offered grants of £10,000 to businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors, with a rateable value of up to £15,000. Businesses in these sectors with a rateable value of up to £51,000 will receive £25,000.
Staff in the council’s finance team have been working round the clock, with many cancelling their holidays to deliver grants to over 900 businesses this week.
The government has also announced an extended rates holiday for eligible businesses to help them deal with the impact of the virus, and the council has written to more than 818 businesses with new reduced bills, amounting to £20.2 million of rate relief.
The council has already received positive feedback from businesses, with one saying the speedy payment had saved him from closure and another adding "Rochdale Council are working miracles, only applied Monday night. Well done guys, I doff my cap. That’s our staff wages covered for 2 months."
The council has also identified over 4,000 businesses that are eligible for the grants and urged them to come forward.
Councillor John Blundell, cabinet member for business, regeneration and skills, said: “It’s been a lot of work for our finance team, as the eligibility for these schemes has changed many times since they were first announced by government and our staff have had to train in a completely new payment process.
“But they know this money is a lifeline for our local businesses and the people who are employed by them, so they’ve pulled out all the stops.
“We do know, however, that there are more businesses out there who are eligible for these grants. We know that not all them will be able to pick up post at the moment, so we’ve also set up an online form at rochdale.gov.uk/coronavirus for them to fill in. As soon as we have the information we need, we can process the payments.”
The council and Rochdale Development Agency (RDA) have also supported businesses in many other ways. The council’s employment links team, which helps get unemployed residents into jobs and training, has been supporting recruitment into desperately needed roles like delivery drivers and carers, working directly with companies, like care homes, who need additional staff. The RDA is sending a daily newsletter out to businesses across the borough with key information about what is support is available and how to access it, while, between them, the teams across the council and RDA have also given one to one support over the phone to hundreds of businesses.
Councillor Blundell added: “Every part of the council, alongside the RDA, has really pulled together and worked their socks off to ensure that people who are worried about their jobs, business and livelihoods have been given all the support they need to get through this crisis. I’m really proud of them.”