Economy Minister Diane Dodds has announced that the £40million NI Micro-business Hardship Fund will open to applications at 6pm today (20 May).
The grant scheme is targeted at businesses with one to nine employees facing immediate cash flow difficulties due to Covid-19 – this includes eligible social enterprises.
Minister Dodds said: “The Hardship Fund will provide much-needed support to micro-businesses which have so far been unable to access other regional and national coronavirus support measures.
“This new fund should mean that over 40,000 businesses in Northern Ireland will have been eligible to apply for support under the Northern Ireland Covid-19 grant schemes.”
The funding is available to businesses unable to access the £10,000, £25,000 and Covid-19 Childcare Support grant schemes.
In order to ensure that the £40million budget is not exceeded, the final amounts awarded will depend on the number of successful applications.
The level of Hardship Fund grant will be up to £10,000 for businesses which pay business rates on premises and up to £5,000 for those that do not pay business rates. Businesses within each category will receive the same amount.
An online eligibility checker is available to enable businesses to check in advance of the fund opening whether they are eligible for the new scheme.
To be eligible, businesses must have experienced a reduction in turnover in excess of 40% since 1 March 2020 as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic or associated government restrictions.
For eligible businesses which are social enterprises without charitable status, at least 60% of their revenue must come from trade in goods and/or services.
Applications for the fund can be made via an online portal from 6pm today and will close on 12 June at 6pm.
Invest Northern Ireland will assess applications, undertake appropriate checks and process payments.
Other non-repayable government grants related to Covid-19 will be taken into account and will be deducted where applicable from the final grant awarded.
A £15.5million fund specifically for charities has been announced by the Department for Communities. Further details will be issued in due course.