Support for organisations in Northern Ireland in response to COVID-19

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey MLA has announced that a £15.5million COVID-19 Charities Fund will open on Monday 15 June. The fund aims to help “local” charities facing financial difficulties as a result of the current public health emergency.

The Northern Irish Executive had also previously announced a three-month business rates holiday for all organisations and cash grants for certain organisations in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors and a Water and Sewerage bills holiday. This is in addition to the measures that apply on a UK basis (see the COVID-19 information hub for more information).

Business Rates Holiday

All business rate payers in Northern Ireland (excluding public sector and utilities) were granted a three-month business rates holiday, this has been extended for another month. This means that no rates will be charged for April, May, June and July 2020.

Access to funding

Sports Hardship Fund

The Executive has announced a £2,000 grant scheme for any organisation delivering sport and physical recreation experiencing short-term financial hardship due to coronavirus, including:

  • National Governing Body of Sport (based in NI)
  • Constituted local sports clubs affiliated to a Governing Body of Sport recognised by Sport NI
  • Community and voluntary sector organisations that deliver or enable sport and/or physical recreation
  • Small charitable trusts that do not qualify for financial help elsewhere.

Grant for Retail, Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure Sector Ratepayers

A newly announced scheme will see the hospitality, tourism and leisure, retail, and childcare sectors pay no rates for the full financial year up until 31 March 2021. The retail sector criteria (more below) excludes off-licences and retail food stores over 300m².

The scheme providing Northern Ireland organisations in the retail, hospitality, tourism and leisure sectors – with a Net Annual Value between £15,001 and £51,000 – with grants worth up to £25,000, is now closed for applications.

For both schemes, businesses must operate in a premises in the retail, hospitality, tourism or leisure sectors, in one of the following:

Amusements Garden Centre Race Track
Arts Gallery Golf Driving Range Restaurant
Auction Mart Harbour Retail Warehouse
Bakery Ice Rink Riding School
Bingo Hall Laundry Shooting Range
Bowling Alley Leisure/Gym/Fitness Centre Shop
Cafe Market Showroom
Camping Site Museum Sports Club
Car Wash Office (in eligible sector) Taxi Depot
Caravan Site Outdoor Centre Theatre
Cinema Petrol Filling Station Tourism Accommodation
Entertainment Centre Play Centre Visitor Centre
Exhibition Venue Post Office
Funeral Parlour Public House

If you think your business should be eligible for the grant but does not appear on this list, you should contact the helpline on 0300 200 7809.

Small Business Support Grant Scheme

The Small Business Support Grant Scheme makes a £10,000 grant available to Northern Ireland businesses eligible for the Small Business Rate Relief Scheme and businesses with a Net Annual Value £15,000 and below, and who currently benefit from Industrial Derating. Charities are therefore unfortunately unlikely to benefit from this grant.

Water and sewerage bills holiday

Due to COVID-19, water and sewerage bills for business and non-domestic customers are to be held back until July 2020. Non-domestic charges for water and sewerage which would have been billed during the postponement period will be included in bills issued once billing resumes. A planned annual increase in non-domestic water and sewerage charges which had been due to be introduced on 1 April 2020 will be deferred and reviewed in September 2020.