Coronavirus Q&A

Coronavirus – support for businesses

Q What support is available for businesses to deal with coronavirus? The Welsh Government announced a £1.4bn business support package on March 18 to help companies across Wales.

  • The new package provides retail, leisure and hospitality businesses in Wales with a year-long business rates holiday in 2020-21;
  • A grant of £25,000 for retail, leisure and hospitality businesses with a rateable value of between £12,001 and £51,000;
  • A £10,000 grant to all businesses eligible for small business rates relief with a rateable value of £12,000 or less.

As far as possible, the rates relief will be operated through the non-domestic rates system for 2020-21. We will reduce the red tape for businesses to receive grants.

Q Does this match the support available in England?

Yes – this matches the measures the Chancellor announced this week for businesses in England, and provides a much-needed boost for small businesses in Wales, which are at the heart of our economy and are struggling to cope with the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

Q Is this the only support available to businesses in Wales?

This £1.4bn package extends the emergency £200m rates relief support we were able to announce on March 17.The Development Bank of Wales is offering all its business customers a three-month capital repayment holiday to help them manage the financial fallout from the virus.

Extensive advice and support is available from Business Wales – https://businesswales.gov.wales/ or 03000 6 03000.

The childcare offer will continue to be paid to local authorities and childcare settings, which currently receive payments for children in their care, even where services are disrupted.

The UK Government has announced a temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme. This will be available to businesses in Wales via the British Business Bank. The HMRC Time to Pay scheme applies in Wales https://www.gov.uk/difficulties-paying-hmrc

Economy Minister Ken Skates is holding an emergency meeting of the Council for Economic Development and will meet banks on March 19 to discuss what further support businesses will need to manage the coronavirus outbreak.

We are working on a package of further support for small businesses, which will not benefit from the schemes already announced.

We are absolutely committed to providing the support and assurance the business community needs. A small taskforce is being set up to look at wider support needed for the economy during the recovery phase.

Q What support is available to businesses who have to pay sick pay?

The UK Government is bringing forward legislation to allow small and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to coronavirus. The eligibility criteria for the scheme will be as follows: This refund will cover up to two weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19 Employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible – the size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020

  • Employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of COVID-19
  • Employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note
  • The eligible period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of Statutory Sick Pay to those staying at home comes into force
  • The government will work with employers over the coming months to set up the repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible.

Q Is further support needed from the UK Government?

We believe the UK Government needs to be more ambitious in its support for business. The First Minister wrote to the Chancellor setting out a range of UK-wide interventions he could take to support the economy during the coronavirus outbreak (a copy of the letter is available via the @FMWales Twitter account).

We believe the UK Government should be considering a National Insurance holiday and financial support for wages.

Q Where can businesses get help and advice?

Coronavirus and Schools

Q When are schools in Wales closing?

Schools across Wales will close for the statutory provision of education by 20 March 2020.

Education Minister Kirsty Williams’ statement is available at https://gov.wales/statement-minster-education-kirsty-williams-school-closures-wales

Q Why are schools closing?

We are acting on a change of expert advice and increasing numbers of staff who are self-isolating.

Q When will schools open again?

We cannot assume schools will re-open for normal classes after the Easter break – this situation is being kept under constant review.

From next week, schools will have a new purpose. They will help support those most in need, including people involved in the immediate response to the coronavirus outbreak. We are working across government and with local government to develop and finalise these plans.

The key areas we are looking at are supporting and safeguarding the vulnerable and ensuring continuity of learning. We are looking in detail at how we can support and safeguard all those who benefit from free school meals and children with additional learning needs.

Distance learning is available through Hwb www.hwb.gov.wales

Further information will be made available as soon as possible.

Q What about exams this year?

The Education Minister has been discussing options with Qualifications Wales and WJEC, which are in the best interests of learners in Wales. There are no easy choices.

Together, they have agreed the best way forward is not to proceed with this year’s summer exams. Learners due to sit their GCSEs and A-levels this summer will be awarded a fair grade to recognise their work, drawing on the range of information that is available, including coursework.

We will not be using the results to publish performance measure outcomes in 2020.

Q Are childcare settings closing?

We are not calling on childcare settings to close at this time. This will be kept under constant review.

There are a significant numbers of parents across Wales who need to be in work, including staff working in the NHS, in our emergency services and in our critical national infrastructure – it is important these families can access childcare for their children which is safe, and which they can trust;

We are working with local authorities and the childcare sector to ensure we have safe places where these children, and our more vulnerable children, can go.

Q But will childcare settings still be supported financially if the number of children attending falls?

Childcare settings are not being required to close at this time. This will be kept under constant review.

Welsh Ministers have agreed if a setting is closed on medical advice or if children are not able to attend due to Covid-19, existing government funding will still be made available. This will include funding for the childcare offer for Wales.

This funding will also continue where staffing numbers fall to a level that the setting is no longer safe to operate.

Welsh Ministers also expect local authorities to maintain payments for childcare provided under Flying Start and for the provision of early education.

The childcare offer for Wales provides 30 hours a week of government-funded early education (FPN) and childcare for eligible working parents of three to four-year-olds, for up to 48 weeks of the year. This is available throughout Wales.

Childcare settings that do not currently have government-funded places should also be eligible for assistance under the wider packages of support for businesses being put in place across Wales and the UK.