The UK Government announced on Tuesday (21 December) that it would provide £1bn to support English businesses impacted by the Omicron Covid-19 variant.
It came after pleas for state financial aid from industries which had been hit by consumers opting to stay at home in the wake of the spread of the latest Covid variant.
Many businesses look set to be hit further over the coming days after the Prime Minister Boris Johnson hinted further restrictions could be introduced in England after Christmas and Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced tougher new rules for Scotland.
So, which businesses can apply for the new funding - and when will it become available?
Here’s everything you need to know.
What is the funding package?
The £1bn Covid support scheme for businesses will see a pot of £683m set aside for one-off grants of up to £6,000 per premises for firms in England.
Equivalent schemes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have not yet been announced, although under the Barnett formula, the devolved administrations should receive £80m, £50m and £25m respectively.
The funding is set to be made available through local authorities. When it will open and how the application process will work has not yet been announced.
£102m of discretionary funding will also become available to local authorities to support other firms, the Government said.
Announcing the aid package, the PM said: “With the surge in Omicron cases, people are rightly exercising more caution as they go about their lives, which is impacting our hospitality, leisure and cultural sectors at what is typically the busiest time of the year.
“That’s why we’re taking immediate action to help with an extra £1 billion in grants to these industries and reintroducing our Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme.
“I urge people across the country to please get boosted now to secure vital protection for yourselves, your loved ones and your communities.”
Which businesses are eligible for the money?
As the PM said in his announcement, the funding is set to be primarily targeted at the hospitality and leisure sectors.
Further guidance is set to be published later today (Wednesday 22 December), but these are many of the businesses which are set to be eligible for financial support:
Cafes/restaurants within a specialist property
Caravan sites and pitches
Casinos and gambling clubs
Rollerblade or skating rinks
Stately homes and historic houses
Zoos and safari parks
Go Kart tracks
Village halls (as well as Scout and Cadet Huts)
Conference and exhibition centres
While the money has been welcomed, some business leaders have said it will not cover their losses.
Charlotte Major, 35, and her husband Martin, 36, who run Gather E17 - a business that hosts fine dining events in Walthamstow - told the PA news agency the support “doesn’t scratch the surface for most businesses.”
Lauren Hutchinson, owner of The Rock Fairy Limited - a rock and roll-themed zero-waste shop and sustainable cafe based in Manchester - said: “The six grand, it doesn’t cover what we’ve lost, so it’s certainly not going to cover what we stand to lose as well if they lock us down.”
A further £30m is going to be made available to cultural organisations and bodies throughout the winter months via the culture recovery fund, the Treasury said.
However, this figure was deemed “inadequate” by Mark Davyd, founder and chief executive of Music Venue Trust (MVT).
Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, also described the newly-announced support as “far too little”.
No support has been provided for the travel industry, which also looks set to be hit by restrictions and advice to reduce social mixing.
Clive Wratten, chief executive of the Business Travel Association, said his industry had been “left in the cold” despite being “a vital part of the UK economy”.
A group of more than 30 cross-party MPs and peers have signed a letter urging Boris Johnson to “take action in support of our aviation, travel and tourism industries”.
It is “simply unacceptable” that new rules which have dampened demand for travel have been brought in “with no additional financial support to protect jobs, businesses and the communities who depend on a thriving aviation sector”, they wrote.
Other sources of financial support
According to the Treasury, there are also other forms of support available to businesses affected by the pandemic.
In his Autumn Budget, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced reduced business rates relief for retail, hospitality and leisure firms for the remainder of the financial year.
There will also be a 50% reduction in business rates for firms in these sectors in the 2022/23 financial year.
However, these reliefs will both have only a limited benefit for larger companies, with next year’s relief capped at £110,000 per business.
Mr Sunak has also highlighted the rate of hospitality VAT, which at 12.5%, is lower than the 20% rate before the pandemic, although this increased from 5% in October.
Pub bosses have also said that VAT support only has a limited benefit when takings are heavily reduced, and no benefit when closures take place.
Additional reporting by PA