Companies have no response from support scheme

Companies have no response from support scheme

20 January 2021

A LOCAL politician has expressed concern that 10 per cent of businesses which applied for government help under a coronavirus support scheme in the Newry, Mourne and Down area have had no response.

South Down MLA, Colin McGrath, said he is unhappy at the Department of Finance delay in delivering the range of help and support available to local businesses during the pandemic, suggesting some of the assistance “falls well short of what is needed.”

While he welcomes the fact that some businesses have received help from the government department’s schemes, the Assemblyman said it is a major problem that far too many, they have been left behind.

Mr McGrath said he welcomed the fact that when the Northern Ireland Executive asked sectors to close down because of the pandemic, it was able to offer them help.

Concerned that some businesses have received no support, Mr McGrath said businesses that rely on others to be viable have been left with no assistance. 

“This includes shops that are near office complexes or schools. These businesses rely on that passing trade have not been asked to close, but their business has all but dried up,” he continued.

“Many have applied to to the various schemes and been rejected and the process of appeals can be difficult.”

Mr McGrath said in the local council area, over 1,600 businesses applied for financial support, expressing concern that just under one third of applicants were rejected.

In addition, he said almost 200 businesses are still waiting to have their applications processed with the number in excess of the 10% still waiting to be considered for financial support.

He added: “No one is doubting the efforts of the staff in the Department of Finance but Minister Conor Murphy must surely have known that additional resources would have been needed to deliver this scheme. 

“This is people’s lives and livelihoods. There should be no delay or dithering.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Finance said it has paid £113m to over 10,000 businesses under its so-called localised restrictions support scheme for businesses which have been required to close or where business service provided at their premises has been directly curtailed under the health protection regulations that have been put in place. 

She said top-up payments began issuing last week and will continue to cover the six week period of restrictions which came into effect on December 26.

The spokeswoman said the Department of Finance has processed over 90% of the 1,377 applications received from businesses in the Newry, Mourne and Down area and already made payments totalling over £9.5 million to 808 businesses, helping to protect livelihoods and support jobs at this hugely difficult time.  

“Every possible effort is being made to process the remaining 118 applications as quickly as possible. Of the remaining applications still to be progressed, many of these have only been received in the last couple of weeks as restrictions have changed,” she said.

The spokeswoman added: “Around 450 businesses have had their applications rejected for a number of reasons, including the business not being eligible for this scheme or incorrect information being supplied, for example, applications related to the wrong address.”

Further information on the range of support schemes available for businesses can be found on the nibusinessbinfo website at