BUSINESSES in Rugby have told of how emergency funding has kept them going during lockdown – as Rugby Borough Council (RBC) reveals it has delivered nearly £27million in grants to support firms during the pandemic.
The council has handed out more than 5,700 grants to borough businesses since the first national lockdown in March 2020.
As well as delivering government grant schemes such as Retail, Leisure and Hospitality Grants, Small Business Rates Grants and Local Restriction Support Grants, RBC’s revenues team has also distributed discretionary grants to support the self-employed, freelancers and short-term contractors.
Clair Saxton and Sharon Lee, the owners of Rugby Unwrapped – a reduced waste store in the town centre – say the grant support has proved vital.
The Church Street shop, where customers can fill their own containers with home, food and personal care products, had been trading for less than a year when the first lockdown was announced.
Since then, the business has received an Additional Restrictions Grant from the council, a European Regional Development Fund Specialist Grant from Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership, and a Government Business Support Grant.
Sharon said: “We’ve now been trading longer in a pandemic than out of one.
“It isn’t an understatement to say that without the support of Rugby Borough Council in terms of grant funding, business rate relief and signposting to grants for which we might be eligible – as well as advice on ensuring our application was correct – our business would have been highly unlikely to have survived much longer.
“We estimate we lost around 80 per cent of our trade as a result of the first lockdown and we’re still in the process of building that back up, with quite a long way to go.
“Grant funding has enabled us to ‘flex’ our business to go online, offering click and collect, and a home delivery service, as well as ensuring we could pay our rent and other fixed costs.”
Covid-19 has had a major impact on Dave Hall, managing director of Albie and Lonnie’s, a formal and casual clothing store in Albert Street.
As well as the challenges facing his business, Dave has also been battling the virus after contracting Covid over Christmas.
“It’s been incredibly tough, to be honest,” he said. “Being a retail business has meant we’ve been closed for many of the last 12 months, and with no weddings and less need for people to purchase casual clothes, it’s had a massive impact on our turnover.
“On top of this, we’ve had to pay full rent to our landlord, pay bills and wages, and our suppliers, although most suppliers have been very understanding.
“The grant we recently received has certainly eased the pressure slightly.
“It allows us to keep going, plan for the weeks until we know we can reopen again and basically keep our heads above water.
“The transition from the initial application to receiving the business grant was very easy, and we always get a quick response from the council when we have a query.
“When you consider the amount of businesses the council deals with on a daily basis, it makes it even more impressive.”
Following the government’s February announcement of the roadmap leading to the end of Covid-19 restrictions, the council reaffirmed its commitment to supporting businesses through the rest of lockdown and with preparations for reopening.
RBC growth and investment spokeswoman Coun Jill Simpson-Vince said: “Since the start of the pandemic we’ve been acutely aware of the impact on businesses, and our revenues team has targeted its resources on ensuring businesses know about the grant support on offer, while distributing financial support quickly.
“With a roadmap to reopening now in place, businesses have a degree of clarity and can start preparing for the future with cautious optimism.
“We know challenges still lie ahead, but the council remains committed to supporting the borough’s businesses through the rest of lockdown and beyond.”
Visit www.rugby.gov.uk/supportbusiness for more information on support for businesses.