Co-ops urged to act quickly for discretionary Covid-19 grants

The scheme is open for businesses in England which have missed out on some of the existing schemes - although those receiving furlough support are eligible

Co-operatives UK has urged co-ops which need cash to help them through the Covid-19 crisis but are ineligible for the some of the main support schemes to apply for a new discretionary grant.

But it warns that demand will far outstrip supply and latecomers will miss out, even if they are in a priority group – so co-ops need to move quickly. 

Under the new discretionary grant scheme, all local authorities in England are distributing grants to local businesses that have so far missed out, to help cover ongoing costs and to ease pressure on cash flow.

The grants only apply to organisations in England, not the rest of the UK.

While each local authority has been given considerable discretion in how they target and distribute this money, there are some common priorities:

  • Micro and start-up businesses that have fixed ongoing costs, especially property-related costs (e.g. rent work space from the ratepayer) 
  • Businesses that are ineligible for the Small Business Grant because they get Charitable Rate Relief rather than Small Business Rate Relief or Rural Rate Relief 

Some local authorities are also setting priorities for co-ops and/or community businesses and/or social enterprises. Co‑operatives UK has been actively encouraging local authorities to target some of this support at local co-ops and community businesses. 

The Co‑operative Councils Innovation Network, the Co‑operative Party, friendly metro mayors and the Local Government Association have all been helpful, it adds. 

Co‑ops, community business, charities and social enterprises are all potentially eligible, subject to local authority discretion. 

This grant scheme is aimed at those micro-small businesses that are struggling because of Covid‑19 and are ineligible for other grant schemes, such as the rates-based Small Business Grant and the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant.

Businesses being supported via the Job Retention Scheme – the furlough scheme – are eligible to apply.

Businesses are ineligible if they have been supported through any of the following:  

  • Self Employment Income Support Scheme
  • Small Business Grant Fund
  • Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant

Most local authorities have already opened an online application process. Co-operatives UK advises eligible co-ops to:

  • Go to their local authority’s website and look for information on ‘discretionary grants’, usually in a Covid‑19 business support section
  • Read the eligibility and prioritisation information – are you eligible and in a priority group? 
  • Find the online application portal and gather the supporting information required
  • If you can’t find any of the above, ask the business support department at the council for more information, try your local councillor, and check back daily.

Co-o-operatives UK adds: “On top of key priorities such as ‘micro business with fixed ongoing costs’, councils will want to allocate this money to local businesses that support decent livelihoods and add social and economic value to their areas.

“Co‑ops should prepare a clear pitch in these regards. How does your co‑op benefit its workers, customers and community?”

More guidance is available at Co-operatives UK’s briefing for local authorities. – download here.

For more information email: [email protected]

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