Businesses in Wales will be offered grants from a £140 million scheme to help survive the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s Economy Minister has said.
Ken Skates said the support package was the “best package of support anywhere in the UK”, but admitted it “can’t save every business and every job”.
The announcement came ahead of new local lockdowns for the Vale of Glamorgan, Neath Port Talbot, and Torfaen, which from 6pm on Monday will see them join nine other areas in South Wales experiencing restrictions.
Restrictions are already in place in Cardiff, Swansea, Llanelli, Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Caerphilly, Merthyr Tydfil, Newport, and Rhondda Cynon Taf.
Mr Skates said up to £60 million will be used to support businesses affected by the local lockdowns, with grants of up to £1,500 for retail, leisure and hospitality businesses with a rateable value of between £12,000 and £51,000.
Grants of £1,000 will be made available for small businesses with a rateable value of £12,000 or less and who can, like the businesses with a higher rateable value, demonstrate “material impact” from Covid-19.
Discretionary grants of up to £1,500 will be made available via local authorities to businesses who are not registered to pay business rates.
Another £80 million will be made available to help businesses prepare for the “post-covid economy”, with grants of up to £200,000 for larger businesses employing more than 250 people, with those applying having to sign an economic contract to “build back better” with a focus on the environment and equality.
We're making an extra £140m available to businesses to help them deal with the challenges of coronavirus and the UK’s exit from the EU.
This 3rd phase of our Economic Resilience Fund will help secure jobs and support firms affected by local lockdowns.
— Welsh Government (@WelshGovernment) September 28, 2020
And £20 million from the latter grant will be ring-fenced to support tourism and hospitality businesses who will be affected by the winter months.
The Welsh Government hope to launch the scheme in the first week of October, Mr Skates said, adding that it “will no doubt make the difference between business survival and business death for thousands of enterprises”.
But he said the latest economic package would not be enough for the Welsh Government to be able to save some businesses from folding before the pandemic is over.
“We can’t save every business and every job,” he said. “To do so would require the sort of financial firepower that only the UK Government possesses in its armoury.
“But we’ve stood steadfast with firms and individuals throughout this pandemic and we’ve done everything in our power to ensure that a good business in 2019 will be a good business in 2021.”
The Welsh Conservatives’ shadow economy minister, Russell George, said he welcomed the announcement and that it was “crucial” the funds got to businesses “as soon as possible”.
But Plaid Cymru said Wales needed more economic levers, including lifting restrictions on the country’s borrowing by Westminster, in order to save the economy.
Its shadow economy minister, Helen Mary Jones MS, said: “Renegotiating the fiscal agreement would go a long way in dealing with our ability to react to these sorts of crises.”
On Monday, Public Health Wales said there were a further 286 reported cases of Covid-19 in the country, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 23,231.
It said no further deaths had been reported, with the total number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic remaining at 1,612.