The government has pledged to provide emergency grants to businesses being badly impacted by the latest Covid-19 lockdown measures.
A total of £4.6 billion has been pledged to cover the costs of the new grants, which are to be worth up to £9,000 per property, the chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak has said.
The grants are intended particularly for operators in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors who have been obliged to close as all nations of the UK again seek to urgently restrain the spread of coronavirus.
Discretionary funds worth up to £594 million are also set to be allocated to other businesses that aren’t in the retail, hospitality or leisure sectors but have been hit by the latest lockdown.
The Treasury has described the promised financial support as being intended to “help businesses through to the spring”, with thousands of firms having been told by the prime minister on January 4 that they need to close immediately and until at least mid-February.
Close to 600,000 companies are expected to benefit to some extent from the new raft of government grants, with the cash to be allocated on a per-property basis.
In a statement, Rishi Sunak said: “The new strain of the virus presents us all with a huge challenge - and whilst the vaccine is being rolled out, we have needed to tighten restrictions further.
“Throughout the pandemic we’ve taken swift action to protect lives and livelihoods and today we’re announcing a further cash injection to support businesses and jobs until the spring.
“This will help businesses to get through the months ahead – and crucially it will help sustain jobs, so workers can be ready to return when they are able to reopen.”
The new grants are being described as a one-off payments, with the hope being that Covid-19 restrictions might be loosened permanently from March 2021 onwards.
Huge numbers of businesses have been hammered financially by the coronavirus crisis and many are struggling to stay afloat despite government help, which has included the provision of low-interest loans, furlough schemes and business rates relief.