Coronavirus: Thousands of firms ‘have fallen through the net’, warns chamber

Christchurch Park, Ipswich Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Christchurch Park, Ipswich Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

More needs to be done to help struggling Suffolk businesses unable to get government support during the coronavirus crisis because they have “fallen through the net”, the county’s chamber of commerce has warned.

The Suffolk Chamber’s latest weekly survey revealed that companies were finding it easier to access government assistance schemes set up in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Nearly half of the 130 respondents said that applying for the funding was easy or very easy, compared to 30% in the previous survey.

MORE: Farm shop opens ‘McDonald’s style drive-thru’ service during lockdown

However the poll found that many businesses were not eligible for the government assistance, such as the Job Retention Scheme – which allows companies to furlough workers with the government paying 80% of their wages – and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) – which sees the government back bank loans to businesses throughout the disruption.

These include businesses owned and managed by directors who receive their main income in the form of company dividends, as well as self-employed people who earn over £50,000 a year even if they have had to stop trading.

Paul Simon, Suffolk Chamber’s head of communications and campaigns, said: “The good news is that more of the various business assistance schemes seem to getting cash into the hands of hard-pressed companies than in the previous week.

“Suffolk Chamber has been lobbying hard for improvements, not least as regards encouraging banks and other lenders to treat all relevant companies fairly as they apply under CBILS.

Most Read

“But more needs to be done for the thousands of Suffolk firms that seem to have fallen through the net and who are struggling to hold onto domestic contracts and customers as this crisis tightens its grip.”

Find all of our coronavirus coverage here.

The survey also found that two-thirds of businesses were struggling to access their customers during the lockdown, up from 55% last week and the fourth consecutive rise.

A quarter of businesses are trying to find new supply chains, up from 20% previously.

A number of company owners also reported their growing concerns for the mental and physical health and wellbeing of their staff, whether they have been already furloughed, are working remotely or still coming to work on the firms’ premises.

Keep up-to-date with the latest coronavirus news in Suffolk by joining our Facebook group or subscribing to our daily newsletter.