Business leaders in Coventry and Warwickshire say the Government’s Job Retention Scheme has helped to prevent a swathe of immediate job losses in the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak.
Louise Bennett, chief executive of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, was reacting to the latest Coronavirus Business Impact Tracker from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) which showed that more than three-quarters of firms have or intend to furlough staff.
She said the scheme, which pays 80 per cent of a furloughed member of staff’s wages up £2,500, may have to be extended beyond June 30 as cashflow remained businesses’ biggest concern.
The portal to access those funds went live on Monday, April 20, and the latest survey showed that 49 per cent of firms had already submitted a claim with ease, 30 per cent planned to claim but hadn’t yet while 14 per cent had submitted a claim with difficulty.
Louise said: “One of the most encouraging elements of the survey is that so many firms are utilising the Job Retention Scheme – many of whom may never have had Government support previously – and that it is saving jobs.
“The BCC say quite rightly that the scheme cannot go on indefinitely but businesses are going to need supporting through the transition from lockdown to whatever a new ‘normal’ looks like.”
The survey, which was conducted from April 22 to April 24 showed that 57 per cent of firms did not intend to apply for a loan through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) and that only 13 per cent of those who have applied have been successful so far.
Louise added: “The survey was conducted before the Government introduced the new Bounce Back Loans this week which we hope to see have an affect on the very smallest firms being able to access cash.
“Some firms say they are also benefiting from the wider package of government support including business support grants, the expansion of HMRC’s Time to Pay initiative, the three-month deferral on VAT and business rates relief for the retail, hospitality and leisure sector.
“With cashflow remaining companies’ number one concern, it’s vital that cash support for businesses gets to them as quickly as possible.
“If businesses are unsure about which support is right for them then they should contact the team at the Chamber to find out more.”