Hardship Fund 

A new NI Micro-business Hardship Fund to help Northern Ireland based micro-businesses and social enterprises unable to access other regional and national COVID-19 support measures.
Department for the Economy (DfE) will make up to £40 million available through a fund, which is being administered by Invest NI on behalf of the Department for the Economy. It will offer emergency funding to businesses facing immediate cash flow difficulties due to the impact of COVID-19.
Summary of the scheme
The Minister for the Economy announced on 15 May 2020 that the scheme would open for online applications within the next seven days. An online eligibility checker is available here
Only one grant will be paid to each eligible business, irrespective of how many properties the business occupies.


Who is eligible
Businesses should ensure they meet the following criteria before applying to the fund:
· The business must be based in Northern Ireland.
· At 29 February 2020, the business must have employed between one and nine employees paid via PAYE except where the sole employee is the business owner or company director. The number of employees will be based on headcount.
· Since 1 March 2020, the business must have experienced a reduction in turnover in excess of 40% as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic or associated Government restrictions.

Who cannot apply
The NI Micro-business Hardship Fund is open to all micro-business and social enterprises excluding the following:
· Primary agricultural producers i.e. those primarily concerned with crop or animal production or forestry or logging or fisheries or aquaculture. However, agricultural businesses associated with the processing, marketing and retail of agricultural products can apply to the fund.
· Businesses eligible for the following NI Executive schemes:
o £10,000 Small Business Support Grant Scheme
o £10,000 Small Business Grant for rental properties and Total NAV of £1,590 or below
o £25,000 Retail, Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure Grant
o COVID-19 Childcare Support Scheme
· Charities or social enterprises with charitable status.
· Social enterprises that receive less than 60% of revenue from trade in goods and/or services.
Businesses should note that other non-repayable Government grants related to COVID-19 will be taken into account and will be deducted, where applicable, from the final grant awarded.

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