Further business support announced – but ‘slower’ easing of restrictions

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The government confirmed details of a new support scheme for fixed costs yesterday, [thu]as well as ramping up the existing payroll scheme.

Ministers outlined the new measures as it was confirmed that the Island’s ‘reconnection’ process was likely to be slower than previously envisaged.

Barring a major spike in active cases, which yesterday fell by a further five to 187, non-essential shops will reopen next Wednesday, followed by ‘close contact’ services, such as hairdressers and beauty salons, a week later on Wednesday 3 February. This had initially been planned for Monday.

And outdoor sport for more than 10 people remains off-limits until at least 17 February, the same date as hospitality venues could start to reopen, with ministers confirming that the interval between stages will be at least three weeks, rather than the two-week gap outlined in early January. The earlier possible date for some reopening of hospitality had previously been 8 February.

At a press conference on Thursday evening, Economic Development Minister Lyndon Farnham said: ‘This has been an exceptionally difficult winter for our Island’s economy and while we have marshalled a comprehensive support package to protect jobs and businesses, such support can never take the place of real work and real earnings.

‘We have been in close contact with the Jersey Hospitality Association, the Chamber of Commerce, Jersey Business and industry representatives to develop our response, ensuring it responds appropriately to the risks businesses are facing.

‘I want to thank those organisations for their cooperation, and for acting as a critical friend on behalf of businesses across the island. Ministers have heard and are responding through these measures to the various representations made by business sectors.’

Payroll support will now cover 90% of employee wages up to £2,500 per month, an increase of £500, with an additional ability for businesses to claim for some higher-paid staff earning £4,600 to £8,900 per month.

Compensation for the detriment suffered by businesses will increase to a supplement of 30% from the previous 20% figure.

Meanwhile the fixed-cost support scheme will be available in three tiers of £3,000, £5,000 or £10,000 per month depending on the rateable value of the business premises. Businesses which are fully closed can claim 100% of the allowance, while businesses which are ‘materially restricted’, for example restaurants operating at reduced capacity, will be entitled to 50%. There will also be allowances for businesses with mobile premises or staff based at home, who will be eligible for the 50% payment.

Chief Minister John Le Fondré added: ‘As you would expect, we have begun to plan for what comes next and how we will come out of the difficult times we have been experiencing.

‘As I have said before, we can see the light at the end of a very long journey. We are not there yet, but it is getting closer.’

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