COVID-19 UPDATE: March 18
I have been getting a lot of calls today from people concerned about the financial implications of COVID for themselves, so I would like to address some of those concerns here:
NEW FINANCIAL SUPPORT MEASURES
Freelance workers will be happy to hear that the introduction of the new IR35 rules has been postponed.
The government has announced that planning rules will be relaxed so pubs and restaurants can operate as hot food takeaways during the coronavirus outbreak.
HMRC have established a helpline for the self-employed and businesses affected by COVID-19. Please call 0300 456 3565 or 0800 0159 559 if you need help/advice.
CHANCELLOR'S PACKAGE OF SUPPORT
The Chancellor announced a financial relief package yesterday, which included:
Two schemes to provide government-backed and -guaranteed loans worth £330 billion to secure access to credit. Both schemes will open next week. There will be a lending facility through the Bank of England for large corporations plus a small business scheme offering loans up to £5m.
On pubs and other retail businesses the Chancellor said: “For those businesses which do have a policy that covers pandemics, the government’s action is sufficient and will allow businesses to make an insurance claim against their policy.”
The Chancellor is also offering a £20bn package of tax cuts & grants for businesses
The retail, leisure and hospitality sectors will enjoy a 12-month Business Rates holiday for all businesses. There will be a £25k grant for businesses with a rateable value of less than £51,000 and a £10k grant for approximately 700,000 businesses eligible for Small Business Rate Relief or Rural Rate Relief (instead of the £3k grants announced at Budget 2020.)
Mortgage lenders will offer 3-month mortgage holiday.
The Chancellor “will work with trade unions and business groups to urgently develop new forms of employment support to help protect people’s jobs and incomes through this period.”
THE LIBERAL DEMOCRAT RESPONSE TO THE CHANCELLOR'S PACKAGE:
The national Liberal Democrats are urging the government to act rapidly to implement the measures outlined by the Chancellor, to provide immediate relief to businesses already struggling, and to provide certainty for the coming weeks and months.
However, the government must urgently provide more detail on measures it will take to support individuals facing hardship. Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to:
1. Guarantee that anyone who is laid off receives at least 20 days of full pay, starting now.
2. Provide full council tax relief for bands A to E for at least 6 months, with councils fully compensated for this loss of income.
3. Turn day-one Universal Credit loans into grants immediately.
4. Ensure no renter is evicted in the coming months as a result of this crisis.
STAYING HEALTHY, GETTING OUTDOORS
Please make sure you have read the official NHS medical advice regarding coronavirus and are following it carefully. This is for your own health as well as that of anyone you may come in contact with. Their advice on prevention, symptoms and treatment can be found here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
Fresh air, exercise and a change of scene promote good mental health as well as physical. The health secretary has confirmed that it is fine to go out to walk in the park as long as you keep two meters away from other people there.
We are lucky to have several amazing green spaces in our constituency; I encourage everyone to make as much use of them as possible. Please take advantage of Richmond Park, Ham Lands, Kew Gardens and your local commons, greens and parks.
The gardens at Ham House are free, although the house itself is closed, and Kew Gardens is offering half price tickets to all. The building there are all closed, but you can enjoy walking in the gardens.
SUPPORTING LOCAL BUSINESSES WHILE MEETING YOUR NEEDS
I have a growing list of local shops who are able to offer home delivery. You can see the list on my website by clicking Covid-19 Resources above. https://www.saraholneymp.org.uk/covid-19-resources
NEWS FROM THE MAJOR GROCERY STORES:
Sainsbury's will set aside the first hour in every supermarket this TOMORROW, 19th March for elderly and vulnerable customers. Please check online for your local Sainsbury's opening hours. Also, from Monday 23rd March, customers who are over 70 years of age or have a disability will have priority access to Sainsbury's online delivery slots.
Morrisons will be introducing a call centre so that people who don't shop online can order groceries over the phone. Please keep an eye out for the phone number when it launches.
John Lewis is moving workers from its department stores to its Waitrose stores and home delivery service, to help meet the demand for groceries.
And finally, here are the links for volunteering in Richmond and Kingston Boroughs again, for anyone interested in helping the community.