AN emergency fund of up to £40 million launches today (Thursday, October 15) in a bid to protect the region's hospitality and leisure businesses from the huge economic impact Covid-19 restrictions are having on the sector.

Initially announced last Friday, the fund had been created and readied for launch earlier last week.

However, it was paused following the Chancellor’s announcement on the national furlough scheme and business support package and the announcement of Liverpool City Region being placed in to the Tier 3 ‘very high risk’ Covid-19 category.

Officials from the Combined Authority and local authority officers have been working with the hospitality sector to understand how the fund could best be redesigned to support them.

What is the aim of the fund?

• The fund aims to enable viable businesses to continue trading and retain as many jobs as possible

• Support temporarily closed businesses to top up employees’ wages and remain solvent

• Help lay the ground for economic recovery across the hospitality and leisure sector in the future.

In a statement the Liverpool City Region be used to help keep businesses in the sector afloat for up to four months, until a wider and more substantial financial support package can be secured from central Government.

The aim is that the first funding will reach applicants within 10 days of applications being approved, with subsequent payments phased over the period of the grant.

When do applications open?

A ‘grant application window’ will open at 10am tomorrow, Friday, October 16 2020 and will close at 5pm on Friday, October 30, 2020

Eligible businesses wishing to apply should visit their own local authority websites (such as St Helens Borough Council) for details and will be able to apply online when the window opens.

What is the criteria?

Detailed eligibility criteria will be available to applicants and will include:

• Small and micro hospitality and leisure businesses

• Based in the Liverpool City Region – Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton, St Helens and Wirral

• One full time equivalent employee or more

• Going concern

• Business to consumer

• Trading from a commercial premises

What have the political leaders said?

In a joint statement, the Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram, City Mayor Joe Anderson and leaders of the city region’s six local authorities, including St Helens' David Baines said:

“The past six months have been an exceptionally difficult period for local businesses but despite the challenges they have faced, many have done an incredible job, showcasing the creativity, determination and resilience our region is known for.

“We know business owners and staff are absolutely at breaking point and we will do anything we can to prevent businesses and jobs going to the wall.

“The furlough scheme announced by the Chancellor last week falls far short of what our region needs and deserves. If 80% was the right level of support back in March, then it should be in November. Lots of the people affected by these new restrictions will be in low paid, insecure work and it is deeply unfair to expect them to survive on two-thirds of the minimum wage.

“We will continue to fight for a more comprehensive funding package, but in the meantime, where the national government has stepped away, we, as local leaders, will step up.

“We know that once a business is gone, they are gone, and we must do everything we can to prevent that.

“Our hope is that this fund can provide some interim support and will mean local businesses and their staff survive in the coming weeks and months, until the government does the right thing.

“Our own teams have worked round the clock, in partnership with the sector, to get this fund ready for applications.

“We are committed to ensuring that we turn applications round at pace and get money to those businesses who so desperately need it.

“If, and when, we are successful in securing more national support, it may well replace the need for this fund, enabling us to repurpose the money back to other areas where it is also sorely needed.”

What is the Liverpool City Region

The Liverpool City Region covers the six local authorities of Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton, St Helens and Wirral

Its hospitality and leisure sector supports over 50,000 jobs in 4,000 business and contributes £5billion a year to the City Region’s economy.

Businesses that are Eligible to Apply for the Hospitality & Leisure Grant:

• Amusements and visitor attractions

(family entertainment centres)

• Art Gallery / Museum (privately owned)

• Bars

• Bowling Alley

• Café with indoor / outdoor seating

• Bookmakers

• Camping and Caravan sites

• Gyms, yoga / dance centres

• Hotel

• Ice Rink

• Leisure centres

• Outdoor Pursuits Centre

• Play Centre /Soft Play Centre

• Private Golf Courses and Driving Ranges

• Public House

• Registered bed and breakfast accommodation

(not Airbnb accommodation)

• Restaurant

• Sports Club (e.g. football, rugby)

•Theatre / Cinema / Event Spaces

• Trampoline Centre

• Urban farm