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Economy Minister Diane Dodds has announced that £40 million is to be made available for a new Hardship Fund aimed at microbusinesses which have not been able to avail of the existing support schemes and which require financial support due to the impact of COVID-19.

It is estimated around 8,000 businesses across Northern Ireland will be eligible.

Minister Dodds said: “I am pleased to announce that the Executive has approved funding of £40 million for this Hardship Fund which will provide much-needed support to thousands of businesses suffering financial difficulties as a result of COVID-19. Social enterprises and charities will be able to access the fund if they meet the eligibility criteria.

“Details on the scheme including eligibility criteria and arrangements for applying will be released next week.

“This fund should mean that around a third of all businesses in Northern Ireland will now be able to access support under the Northern Ireland COVID-19 grant schemes.”