£72.3 million will begin issuing from today in top up grants to businesses which were allowed to remain open during the most recent restrictions.

More than 13,000 businesses, which did not qualify for support during the most recent lockdown period, will now receive top up grants. Over 12,100 businesses will receive a £5,000 top up while over 1,100 businesses will receive a £10,000 top up.

Visiting two businesses in Belfast which will benefit from the top up grants, the Finance Minister said: “During the most recent restrictions, many businesses were permitted to stay open to provide essential goods and services. While these businesses continued to operate, it is recognised that their trade and footfall was impacted as a result of the restrictions.

“I have been determined throughout the pandemic to ensure support reaches as many businesses as possible. These top up payments will benefit thousands of small and medium sized businesses across retail, hospitality, tourism, leisure and manufacturing which were unable to access Executive business support schemes. This grant will cover a wider range of business including convenience stores, hardware stores, bakeries, financial services, engineering firms, and coach services to name a few.”

Land & Property Services is undertaking verification work to ensure the occupiers of business properties have remained the same since the original grants were paid – once this is complete further top up payments will issue. Businesses which started trading after the application process for the £10,000 Small Business Support Grant and the £25,000 Retail, Tourism, Hospitality and Leisure Grant closed will also have the opportunity to apply online for the top up payment from late June.

Welcoming the top up payments, Glyn Roberts, Chief Executive of Retail NI, said: “Retail NI is pleased that the Finance Minister and his Department have listened to our views and concerns and responded with this grant scheme.  These grants will support many independent retailers who had lost significant footfall and trade as a result of hospitality and offices being closed during lockdown. Along with the further years rates holiday and the forthcoming High Street Scheme, this will greatly help our high streets on the long road toward recovery.”

Concluding, Minster Murphy said: “This has been a positive week for the economy as relaxations have enabled businesses to reopen their doors and welcome back customers. It is a positive step forward as we continue to make progress on our pathway to recovery.

“I recognise that it will take time for trading conditions to resume to pre pandemic levels. I hope the grant assistance provided by the Executive combined with the second year of the 12 months rates holiday and the full funding of the Economy Minister’s Economic Recovery Action Plan will help support businesses and economic recovery in the time ahead.”

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