Weekly Digest – 16 February 2022

Welcome back to our Weekly Digest. Read on for the latest updates and some ideas to help us all move forward.

Businesses Urged to Apply for Remaining COVID-19 Grant Funding

Businesses across the country are being encouraged to apply for £850 million still available in COVID-19 support grants. The funding is made up of £556 million available through the £635 million Omicron Hospitality and Leisure Grant (OHLG) scheme, and a further £294 million through the Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) scheme.

Wales: £330 Million Package for Cost-of-Living Crisis

The Welsh Government has announced a £330 million package aimed to support people in overcoming the cost-of-living crisis. This includes a £150 cost-of-living payment to be paid as soon as possible and an extra £200 for low-income households through the Winter Fuel Payment next winter.

Wage Rises Not Keeping Pace With Inflation

Wage growth picked up in January, as job vacancies hit a new record high. The Office for National Statistics reported annual growth rate for average total pay, increased to 4.3% in the quarter ending December, up from 4.2% in the previous quarter. However, taking into account inflation, real pay fell on the year by 0.1%. Wages excluding bonuses fell by 0.8%.

Landmark Deal to Establish Two New Green Freeports in Scotland

The UK and Scottish governments have made a landmark agreement to establish 2 new Green Freeports in Scotland. The UK government has committed £52 million, building on its plan to level up the entire UK. The new hubs will support the regeneration of communities across Scotland and will bring jobs.

Rapid Testing Made Easier for Partially Sighted People

The UK Health Security Agency has launched the Be My Eyes app and video-call support service with specially trained NHS Test and Trace staff to help partially sighted people to take lateral flow tests at home.

Support for Domestic Abuse Victims

£125 million for councils to provide vital support services for domestic abuse victims during 2022/23. Funding will go towards healthcare, social workers and benefits, interpreters, immigration advice, and other specialist services.

£350 Government Support to Help with Energy Costs

The Energy Bills Rebate will provide around 28 million households with an upfront discount on their bills worth £200 from October. Households in England, which are in council tax bands A-D, will also receive a £150 rebate from April.

This £9.1 billion government support is intended to help with the cost of living after the increase in energy costs.

Lump Sum Exit Scheme Support for Farmers

Farmers who wish to leave the industry will be supported by a new Government scheme that provides a lump sum payment, allowing them to exit the sector in a managed way. In exchange for their payment, farmers will surrender their entitlements and be expected to either rent or sell their land or surrender their tenancy, in order to create opportunities for new entrants and farmers wishing to expand their businesses.

The Lump Sum Exit Scheme, where farmers could receive up to around £100,000, is due to open in April and the application period will run until the end of September.

Updated Travel Rules

The government has announced further relaxation of travel restrictions for fully vaccinated individuals arriving in the UK.

Fully vaccinated travellers who arrive in the UK after 4:00 am on 11 February must complete the public health passenger locator form within 48 hours before travel. This means they are no longer required to show a negative COVID-19 test result on arrival, self-isolate upon arrival, and take a PCR or lateral flow test.

On the other hand, unvaccinated travellers must:

  • present a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than 48 hours prior to departure
  • complete the public health passenger locator form within 48 hours prior to travel
  • book and pay for two mandated COVID-19 tests to be taken on or before day two and on or after day eight of arrival.

They will no longer have to quarantine upon arrival unless the COVID-19 PCR test is positive. If the result is positive, they must self-isolate for 10 full days. This can be reduced at the start of day 6 if the day 5 and day 6 tests are both negative and taken 24 hours apart.

Over £700 Million New Grant Fund for Businesses Impacted by Omicron

Businesses in England most impacted by the Omicron variant will be able to tap into a new £700 million support package in the coming weeks.

Firms in the hospitality, leisure and accommodation sectors will be able to apply for one-off grants of up to £6,000 per premises depending on rateable value:

  • businesses with a rateable value of £51,000 or above: £6,000
  • businesses with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000: £4,000
  • businesses with a rateable value of £15,000 or below: £2,667

In addition, more than £100 million worth of discretionary funding is also being made available for local authorities to support other businesses.

£1 Billion Support for UK Businesses Impacted by Omicron

The government is providing one-off grants of up to £6,000 per premises for businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors in England. More than £100 million discretionary funding will be made available for local authorities to support other businesses.

The government will also cover the cost of Statutory Sick Pay for Covid-related absences for small and medium-sized employers across the UK. To enable more cultural organisations to apply for support during the winter, further funding amounting to £30 million will be made available through the Culture Recovery Fund.

Deadline Extension for Non-Domestic Renewable Heat Scheme

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy confirmed that it is proposing a 12-month extension to the non-domestic RHI’s application deadline, moving the date from 31 March 2022 to 31 March 2023.

Also set to be extended are the second and third allocations of the scheme’s tariff guarantee, which will allow organisations to secure a fixed tariff before their installation is commissioned and accredited.

New Laws and Code of Practice to Resolve Commercial Rent Debts

From 25 March 2022, new laws introduced in the Commercial Rent (Coronavirus) Bill, will establish a legally-binding arbitration process for commercial landlords and tenants who have not yet reached an agreement, following the principles in the Code of Practice.

The new laws will be implemented in England and Wales, and Northern Ireland will have the power to introduce similar legislation. The Commercial Rent Bill will apply to commercial rent debts related to the mandated closure of certain businesses such as pubs, gyms and restaurants during the pandemic.

Cold Weather Payment Scheme

From 1 November 2021, households have become eligible for the Cold Weather Payment scheme which involves a weekly reduction on their energy bills.

You can receive this payment if the average temperature in your area is recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees celsius or below over seven consecutive days. Eligible individuals will get £25 for each seven-day period of very cold weather between 1 November 1 and 31 March 2022.

£500 Million Plan for Jobs Expansion

Workers leaving the furlough scheme and unemployed individuals over 50 years old will be supported back into work as part of more than £500m expansion of the government’s Plan for Jobs. People earning the lowest wages will also benefit and existing schemes targeting young people will be extended into next year as part of the new package.

Starting in April 2022, the Government is enhancing its programme of support for workers on Universal Credit.

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