Minister seeks to reassure businesses as crisis deepens

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Over the weekend, several prominent business owners, many in the hospitality industry, took to social media to reveal just how serious the situation was. Several said that the government response was being rolled out too slowly and was too little, especially given the more far-reaching support schemes announced in the UK.

Senator Lyndon Farnham said that the government would support businesses and reiterated the packages available.

Around £200 million of financial measures have been made available already, with the Senator saying that ministers were aware that further support would ‘need to follow’.

Several businesses have expressed concerns that the government support may be too late – with some of the measures unable to come into force until they have been debated by the States during tomorrow’s sitting.

Chef Mark Jordan, who owns a restaurant in St Aubin’s Bay, urged the government to step in and boost business support.

In a tearful video posted on social media, Mr Jordan, who opened his restaurant nine years ago, said: ‘I had to tell nearly all of my staff that I don’t know how the longevity of the business is going to last.

‘Every day we have cancellations. It is looking like we only have a matter of days to go.

‘I’m having to tell my staff that, come next week, they may not have a job. We are having no help from the government and if it is coming, it is too late.

‘I feel devastated. Those people rely on me, rely on my business, rely on me keeping them safe so that they can go home to their families, feed their kids, pay their bills. At this moment, I can’t do that and it is the worst feeling that I have ever had in the 17 years of being on this Island.’

Meanwhile, Jersey Pottery closed its doors on Friday for the first time since 1946.

Director Dominic Jones said on Twitter that the government needed to provide more support.

He said: ‘Lay-offs are happening in Jersey and employees are already at risk. The States have been happy to offer all their non-essential zero-hours staff continued employment even though they can’t work. Easy when it’s taxpayers money and you aren’t running a commercial enterprise. There have been some areas [of] government support but we need more.’

On Friday, Senator Farnham announced that for six weeks, government would pay employers a subsidy of £200 towards each employee’s wage. It will come into effect for those in employment as of last Friday and will operate until the end of April when a ‘structured solution’ will be introduced. It will not be available to industries such as financial services providers, property or supermarkets.

The UK government meanwhile announced that it would pay 80% of the salary for staff who were kept on by their employer – covering wages of up to £2,500 a month.

Senator Farnham has also previously announced that businesses and self-employed Islanders could defer the Social Security contributions for the first two quarters of the year, while GST payments can also be deferred.

The minister subsequently announced that £50 million was being set aside for a newly formed Jersey Business Disruption Loan Guarantee Scheme to facilitate bank lending and overdrafts, while another £50 million is being put into a Jersey Recovery Fund to support large businesses. Both schemes are still being developed and Senator Farnham said more information would be provided in the coming days.

Meanwhile, a small-business emergency fund, to provide additional grant support to the self-employed and small businesses, is also being developed.

Businesses and self-employed Islanders already struggling due to COVID-19 pandemic are being encouraged to discuss their financial position with their bank and, if necessary, apply for additional funding under the Jersey Business Disruption Loan Guarantee Scheme, or to contact Jersey Business for free advice.

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