Government supports - Northern Ireland

The coronavirus pandemic is a fast-moving global situation with many businesses across the UK affected. The UK Government, NI Assembly and HMRC are acting and have produced guidance for businesses and employers and employees setting out the various measures of support announced. There is also a dedicated page for NI businesses. General advice on the UK Government response is also available and includes helpful advice for different sectors.

We recommend you bookmark the relevant pages on GOV.UK on your web browser to ensure you’re getting the most up to date information and guidance over the coming weeks and months.

The COVID-19 pandemic has struck hard at many sectors of business. Most will find a way through the crisis through a combination of perseverance, innovation and ingenuity. Accountants, with their expertise in financial planning, accessing finance, restructuring businesses, and applying for state aid are at the forefront of helping businesses. Accountants should develop an expertise and a familiarity with these resources.  

To support our members, we have put in place a range of information. As most businesses will need finance, access and availability of adequate and timely finance will be crucial to the economic recovery going forward. On this page we provide a guide to the broad and expanding range of capital supports available. Some are schemes offering working capital loans or grants; others are for industry sectors particularly hard hit by the crisis.  

We have gone through the key supports available and categorised them in a format that is useful to an accountant seeking to identify the most appropriate form of finance. Please note that this list is not comprehensive and that the supports available are constantly changing. Members are advised to keep an eye on developments and refer to the source documentation where necessary. 

Last updated: Wednesday, 7 October 2020



We continue to update the pages dedicated to the UK Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the UK Self-Employed Income Support Scheme as new changes emerge.

After postponing the Autumn Budget in the face of worsening coronavirus infection rates and increased restrictions, the Chancellor announced his ‘Winter Economy Plan’ on Thursday 24 September 2020. Many of measures announced by the Chancellor were recommendations of this Institute in its Next Financial Year position paper published in early July.

  1. UK Job Support Scheme
  2. UK Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) - grant extension
  3. UK VAT cut for tourism and hospitality sector extended
  4. UK Self-Assessment - Time to Pay extension facility
  5. UK VAT deferral - new payment scheme
  6. HMRC arrangements
  7. UK COVID-19 tidbits

UK Job Support Scheme

A new Job Support Scheme is to be introduced from 1 November 2020 after the job retention scheme ends. This will be available to businesses “facing lower demand over the winter months due to coronavirus” – more information is awaited on this aspect of the scheme.

Under the scheme, which will run for six months until 30 April 2021, the Government will contribute towards the wages of employees who are working fewer than normal hours due to decreased demand.

Employers will continue to pay the wages of staff for the hours they work - but for the hours not worked, the Government and the employer will each pay one third of their equivalent salary. This means that employees will be paid at least two thirds of their salary per hour for every hour not worked.

Employees must be working at least 33% of their usual hours and the level of grant will be calculated based on an employee’s usual salary, capped at £697.92 per month.

To be eligible to apply for the grant, employees must:

  • be registered on PAYE payroll on or before 23 September 2020; and
  • work at least 33% of their usual hours during the first three months.

This level of hours will be reviewed by the Government at a later date for the remaining months of the scheme.

Employers must pay at least two thirds of employees’ salary for every hour not worked. Employers will need to fund the difference between this and the grant and pay National Insurance and pension contributions from their own funds.

Claims will open in December and grants will be paid on a monthly basis from this date.

The scheme is designed to sit alongside the Jobs Retention Bonus. Businesses can benefit from both schemes in order to help protect viable jobs. Some more information is available in a newly published factsheet.

The Job Support Scheme will be open to businesses across the UK even if they have not previously used the Job Retention Scheme. Further guidance is expected soon.

UK Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) - grant extension

Self-employed individuals and members of partnerships who are eligible for the SEISS, and who are actively continuing to trade but are experiencing reduced demand due to COVID-19 (again, more guidance on this is to come), will be eligible for a further SEISS grant.

Grants will be paid in two lump sum instalments each covering three months. The first grant will cover a three-month period from the start of November 2020 until the end of January 2021. This will be a taxable grant to cover 20 per cent of average monthly trading profits, and capped at £1,875 in total.

An additional second grant, which may be adjusted to respond to changing circumstances, will be available to cover the period from February to the end of April. Some more information is available on GOV.UK.

UK VAT cut for tourism and hospitality sector extended

As part of the package, the Government also announced it will extend the 5% VAT rate for the tourism and hospitality sectors which was due to end on 12 January 2021 to 31 March 2021.

UK Self-Assessment - Time to Pay extension facility

Many taxpayers deferred the payment of their second 2019/2020 payment on account which was due on 31 July 2020 until 31 January 2021. As these taxpayers will need to pay this deferred amount, plus any balancing payment for 2019/20 and the first 2020/21 payment on account all by 31 January 2021, their 31 January 2021 tax bill may be larger than usual.

Any taxpayer unable to make these payments in full by 31 January 2021 may be able to set up a Time to Pay payment plan of up to 12 months online without needing to contact HMRC.

Taxpayers with self-assessment tax debts up to £30,000 and who need extra time to pay will be able to access this Time to Pay facility and can get automatic and immediate approval.

Those with self-assessment debts over £30,000, or who need longer than 12 months to repay their debt in full, will still be able to set up a Time to Pay arrangement but they will need to contact HMRC to set it up. More information on this is expected soon.

UK VAT deferral - new payment scheme

VAT due in the period 20 March 2020 to 30 June 2020 was due to be paid by 31 March 2021. Businesses will be able to make 11 interest free smaller repayments in the 12 months to 31 March 2022. Again, we expect more detail on this in the coming weeks.

HMRC arrangements

Call HMRC’s dedicated helpline. HMRC has established a dedicated helpline set up to help businesses and self-employed individuals in financial distress and with outstanding tax liabilities receive support with their tax affairs.

Through this, businesses may be able to agree a bespoke Time to Pay arrangement. These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities. If you are concerned about being able to pay your tax due to COVID-19, call HMRC’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559.

HMRC has also stated that it will also waive late payment penalties and interest where a business experiences administrative difficulty contacting HMRC or paying taxes due to COVID-19.

UK COVID-19 tidbits
The COVID-19 pandemic impacts on many areas of the UK tax system, from inheritance tax forms-submission where signatures are required, to announcements regarding the tax treatment of working from home expenses.

Our UK Tax Specialist Leontia Doran reviews all of this content and pulls it together every few weeks as tidbits in the UK section of Chartered Accountants Tax News. You can find all tidbits in the archive of Chartered Accountants Tax News

Loans and grants

  1. £10,000 Small Business Grant - NI only
  2. £10,000 Small Business Grant for rental properties and total NAV of £1,590 or below 
  3. £25,000 Retail, Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure Grant - NI only
  4. Bounce Back Loan scheme - UK-wide
  5. Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) - UK-wide 
  6. COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) - UK-wide
  7. Future Fund - UK-wide
  8. Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) - UK-wide
  9. Income Tax Deferral for the Self-Employed - UK-wide
  10. Sports Hardship Fund - NI only
  11. Statutory Sick Pay Rebate - UK-wide
  12. Micro-business Hardship Fund – NI only
  13. Government Business rates supports package – NI only
  14. InterTrade Ireland – Emergency Business Solutions
  15. InterTrade Ireland – E-Merge Initiative – NI only
  16. UK Government Future Fund – UK-wide
  17. Charities Aid Foundation Emergency Fund – UK wide 
  18. Clothworkers’ Emergency Fund – UK wide
  19. NI Fishing Industry Support – NI only
  20. UK Charity’s sector support package – UK-wide
  21. Coronavirus Community Fund – NI only
  22. Recovery Advice for Business Scheme – UK-wide
  23. Creative Support Fund - NI only 
  24. The New Needs Fund (Constituted organisations with charitable purposes) – NI only
  25. Industry Strategy Challenge Fund – UK wide
  26. Rural Micro Business Growth Scheme– NI only 
  27. Tourism NI – New Experience Development Programme  
  28. Covid-19 Equity Investment Fund – NI only  
  29. Digital Selling Capability Grant – NI only
  30. Apprenticeship Challenge Fund – UK wide 
  31. Apprenticeship Return, Retain and Result initiative – UK wide
  32. Apprenticeship Recruitment Incentive Initiative – UK wide



£10,000 Small Business Grant - NI only
One-off grant of £10,000 to businesses currently in receipt of Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR)
Eligible businesses

NI businesses with a Total Net Annual Value (NAV) of £15,000 and below, eligible for the Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) scheme or access Industrial Derating.
Excluded from this are:

  • vacant properties and
  • MP and MLA Constituency offices
Key conditions
  • Apply by 20 May for other eligible businesses
  • Automatic for Direct Debit rate payers
Key terms
Only one grant can be paid in respect of each property and only one grant can be paid to each business, irrespective of how many properties the business occupies

If separate businesses are operating from separate properties, then a grant can be registered in relation to each separate business that occupies a separate property

For rental properties with a sole tenant and properties with a Total NAV of £1,590 or below, further information is required to ensure that that the grant is being paid to the small business who occupies the property, and not a landlord or letting agent
NI Business Info



£10,000 Small Business Grant for rental properties and total NAV of £1,590 or below 
A one-off grant to small businesses to help them meet their ongoing business costs
Eligible businesses

To be eligible, your business must:

  • be the sole tenant of a rental property where the landlord receives the rate bill
  • be sole tenant of a rental property and the business receives the rate bill
  • own the property that it occupies and the property has a Total NAV of £1,590 or below
Key conditions
Deadline to register is Wednesday 20 May 2020
Key terms
For rental properties with a sole tenant and properties with a Total NAV of £1,590 or below, further information is required to ensure that that the grant is being paid to the small business who occupies the property, and not a landlord or letting agent

NI Business Info
£25,000 Retail, Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure Grant - NI only
To support businesses currently experiencing financial hardship, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and have a need for financial relief under the terms and conditions of the Business Support Scheme
Eligible businesses
Businesses must operate in a premises in the retail, hospitality, tourism or leisure sectors, which appear on a list at this link
Key conditions
Grant is to the business, not the premises, i.e. if business operates in multiple premises, only one payment will be made
Key terms
  • Businesses must have a Total Net Annual Value (NAV) of between £15,001 and £51,000 within the retail, hospitality, tourism and leisure sectors, subject to some exclusions
  • Landlords, managing agents and small businesses who are sole tenants should not use the Business Grant Support online form to register for the scheme
NI Business Info
Bounce Back Loan scheme - UK-wide
  • A new, fast-track finance scheme introduced to help smaller businesses impacted by COVID-19
  • Intended to be a temporary response – initially open until 4 November 2020, with the Government retaining the right to extend this
  • Designed to enable businesses to access finance quickly, so online applications can be expected to be assessed by their lender within a matter of days
Eligible businesses

Most businesses, regardless of turnover, which:

  • meet the eligibility criteria and
  • were established on or before 1 March 2020
  • Click here for further clarification
  • Between £2,000 and up to 25% of turnover
  • Maximum loan available is £50,000
Key conditions
  • Scheme will be available through the British Business Bank’s accredited lenders. A list of lenders is available here
  • Businesses will be required to fill in a short online application form and self-declare that they are eligible for the Scheme
  • The business must confirm to the lender that the loan will only be used to provide an economic benefit to the business – for example, providing working capital and not for personal purposes
  • For some businesses who self-declare as being a “business in difficulty” on 31 December 2019, there may be restrictions on the amount of finance they are allowed to borrow and what they can do with the loan (e.g. a loan under the Scheme is not permitted to be used for export-related activities)
Key terms
  • Repayment term is fixed at six years
  • No repayments will be due during the first 12 months
  • Businesses remain 100% liable to repay the full loan amount, as well as interest, after the first year
Interest rate
  • 2.5% per annum
  • The Government will cover any interest payable in the first 12 months through a Business Interruption Payment to the lender
  • Lenders will benefit from a 100% government-backed guarantee
  • Lenders are not permitted to charge any fees

NI Business Info


Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) - UK-wide 
Purpose To provide financial support to mid-sized and larger UK businesses by allowing lenders to support eligible businesses that were viable before the coronavirus outbreak but now face significant cash flow dicfficulties that would otherwise make their business unviable in the short term
Eligible businesses

Viable businesses are:

  • based in the UK
  • with an annual turnover of over £45 million
  • adversely impacted by coronavirus and
  • not in receipt of a facility under the Bank of England’s COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility

Not eligible are:

  • credit institutions, insurers and reinsurers (but not insurance brokers); • building societies
  • public-sector bodies and
  • state-funded primary and secondary schools


  • up to £25 million to businesses with turnover from £45 million up to £250 million
  • up to £50 million to businesses for those with a turnover of over £250 million (as of 19 May, this amount has been extended from £50m to £200m, but with restrictions placed on dividend and bonus payments by borrowers. The expanded loans will be available from 26 May)
  • From 30 July businesses in this category and which have fewer than 50 employees and a turnover of less than £9m can apply.
Key conditions
  •  The scheme is available through a series of accredited lenders, which are listed on the British Business Bank website
  • Under the scheme, personal guarantees of any form will not be taken for facilities below £250,000
  • For facilities above £250,000, personal guarantees may still be required, but claims cannot exceed 20% of losses after all other recoveries have been applied
  • The borrower remains fully liable for the debt.
  • Applications will not be limited to businesses that have been refused a loan on commercial terms extending the number who benefit.
  • The Treasury has not capped the interest rates banks can charge.
  • The scheme is now available with 22 participating lenders.
Key terms

Finance is available in the form of:

  • term loans
  • revolving credit facilities (including overdrafts)
  • invoice finance and
  • asset finance

The government will provide lenders with an 80% guarantee on individual loans

Interest rate Facilities backed by a guarantee under CLBILS will be offered at commercial rates of interest

NI Business Info


COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) - UK-wide 
Purpose Under the COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility (CCEF), the Bank of England will buy short-term debt from large companies to allow companies to finance their short-term liabilities.It will also support corporate finance markets overall and ease the supply of credit to all firms
Eligible businesses • Companies affected by a short-term funding squeeze
• Companies – and their finance subsidiaries – that make a material contribution to the UK economy can participate
• Further information regarding eligibility can be found on the Bank of England website
The minimum size of an individual security that the Fund will purchase from an individual participant is £1 million nominal
Key conditions
• The scheme is delivered through commercial lenders, backed by the Bank of England. 
• It will operate for at least 12 months, and for as long as steps are needed to relieve cash flow pressures on firms that make a material contribution to the UK economy
Key terms
The full rules of the scheme and guidance on how to apply are available on the Bank of England website
Interest rate
The facility will offer financing on terms comparable to those prevailing in markets in the period before the COVID-19 economic shock
NI Business Info



Future Fund - UK-wide
A new scheme to issue convertible loans to innovative companies which are facing financing difficulties due to the coronavirus outbreak. These convertible loans may be a suitable option for businesses that rely on equity investment and are unable to access the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme
Eligible businesses
Eligible businesses:

• Are based in the UK
• Can attract the equivalent match funding from third-party private investors and institutions
• Will have previously raised at least £250,000 in equity investment from third-party investors in the last five years

Full eligibility criteria will be published in due course
Loans ranging from £125,000 to £5 million
Key conditions
The scheme will be delivered in partnership with the British Business Bank 
Key terms
Loans subject to at least equal match funding from private investors
NI Business Info future fund



Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) - for small and medium-sized businesses - UK-wide 
To provide financial support to small and medium-sized businesses affected by COVID-19. It is also designed to help businesses access loans and other kinds of finance up to £5 million
Eligible businesses

To be eligible, your application must be for businesses purposes and your business must generate more than 50% of its turnover from trading activity. Your business must be based in the UK with an annual turnover of up to £45 million. (As of July 2020, UK companies who have participated in highly selective accelerator programmes and were required, as part of that programme, to have parent companies outside of the UK will now be able to apply for investment. Accelerator programmes, such as TechStars or Y-Combinator, give businesses access to finance, mentorship and expert networks.)



Excluded applicants include: 

  • Banks, insurers and reinsurers (but not insurance brokers)
  • Public-sector bodies and
  • State-funded primary and secondary schools
Up to £5 million over a term up to six years depending on type of loan
Key conditions

You need to show that your business: 

  • Would be viable were it not for the pandemic and 
  • Has been adversely impacted by the Coronavirus
Key terms
  • The government guarantees 80% of the finance to the lender and pays interest and any fees for the first 12 months
  • If you want to borrow £30,000 or more, you also need to confirm that your business wasn't classed as a business in difficulty on 31 December 2019
  • Applicants must approach lenders themselves
  • The scheme is open for applications until the end of September 2020.
Interest rate
Over 50 lenders are participating, so will be dependent on type of loan and the lender
NI Business Info 



Income Tax Deferral for the Self-Employed - UK-wide 
If you are self-employed, the Self- Assessment payment on account that is ordinarily due to be paid to HMRC by 31 July 2020 may now be deferred until January 2021 
Eligible businesses
If you are due to make a Self-Assessment payment on account on 31 July 2020 then you are eligible for the deferment.  
The deferment is optional; anyone able to pay their second self-assessment payment on 31 July 2020 should still do so
Key conditions
  • Deferred Self-Assessment payment is an automatic offer. You do not need to apply
  • No penalties or interest for late payment will be charged in the deferral period 
  • HMRC has also scaled up its ‘Time To Pay’ arrangement, which is a method of spreading your business tax payments over a longer period in a more affordable way. It is available to all firms and individuals who are in temporary financial distress as a result of COVID-19 and have outstanding tax liabilities
NI Business Info


Sports Hardship Fund - NI only - Suspended due to funding constraints
To help sports clubs and sporting organisations from the voluntary and community sector with immediate financial commitments to maintain their facilities during the COVID-19 restrictions
NOTE: New applications for this grant are currently suspended pending confirmation of additional funding
Eligible businesses
Sports clubs and sporting organisations from the voluntary and community sector which are unable to receive support from other government Coronavirus mitigation funds
Key conditions
This fund is to help meet short-term financial obligations, particularly fixed costs such as rent/lease, utility costs, essential ground maintenance, insurances
Key terms
Each successful applicant will receive £2,000 for costs incurred from 1 April 2020
Interest rate
NI Business Info 


Statutory Sick Pay Rebate - UK-wide 

The Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme will repay employers the current rate of SSP that they pay to current or former employees for periods of sickness starting on or after 13 March 2020.  

The repayment will cover up to two weeks starting from the first day of sickness if an employee is unable to work because they either: 

  • Have Coronavirus
  • Cannot work because they are self-isolating at home

Employees do not have to give you a doctor’s fit note for you to make a claim.

NOTE: The online service you’ll use to reclaim SSP is not available yet. HMRC will announce when the service is available and the guidance at the link below will be updated. 

Eligible businesses
  • Employers 
  • Connected companies and charities can also use the scheme if their total combined number of PAYE employees are fewer than 250 on or before 28 February 2020
If you’re an employer who pays more than the current rate of SSP you can only claim the current rate amount
Key conditions

The scheme can be used by employers if they: 

  • Are claiming for an employee who’s eligible for sick pay due to Coronavirus
  • Had a PAYE payroll scheme that was created and started on or before 28 February 2020
  • Had fewer than 250 employees on 28 February 2020

The scheme covers all types of employment contracts, including: 

  • Full-time employees
  • Part-time employees
  • Employees on agency contracts and 
  • Employees on flexible or zero-hour contracts
Key terms

You must keep records of all the statutory sick payments that you want to claim from HMRC, including: 

  • The reason why an employee could not work
  • Details of each period when an employee could not work, including start and end dates
  • Details of the SSP qualifying days when an employee could not work and 
  • National Insurance numbers of all employees who you have paid SSP to

You will have to keep these records for at least three years following your claim

NI Business Info


Micro-business Hardship Fund – NI only - Scheme closed on 12 June 2020

To help Northern Ireland based micro-businesses and social enterprises unable to access other regional and national COVID-19 support measures.

Eligible businesses
  • 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.

The Department for the Economy (DfE) will make up to £40 million available through a fund, which is being administered by Invest Northern Ireland.

Key conditions

The NI Micro-business Hardship Fund is open to all micro-business and social enterprises excluding the following:

Key terms
  • 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.
  • Only one grant will be paid to each eligible business, irrespective of how many properties the business occupies.
  • It was announced on Friday, 15 May that the NI Micro-business Hardship Fund will open for online applications within seven days. An online eligibility checker will be available week commencing 18 May.
  • Guidance around other conditions will be made available when the fund launches.
  • You do not have to be VAT registered to apply.
NI Business Info
Government Business rates supports package – NI only

The new scheme, developed with independent analysis from the Ulster University Economic Policy Centre, will see the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic pay no rates for the full financial year up until 31 March 2021.

The rates-support packages will also see all businesses receive a one-month extension of the rates holiday up to 31 July 2020.

Eligible businesses
  • hospitality, tourism and leisure
  • retail (excluding certain supermarkets and off-licences)
  • childcare
  • Belfast City Airport, Belfast International Airport and City of Derry.
  • 100% Relief for Hospitality, Tourism, Leisure and Retail properties (with the exception of retail food stores over 300m² and off-licences) to 31 March 2021 - £175m
  • Continue existing 100% business rates holiday for all properties for a further 1 month to end of July (excluding public sector and utilities) - £34.5m
  • 100% rates relief for Belfast International, Belfast City & City of Derry until 31 March 2021 - £2.2m
  • Provide 100% rates relief for Childcare Establishments until 31 March 2021 - £1.4m
Key conditions
  • Extending relief must be linked to the policy to lift restrictions – if restrictions are lifted across some sectors (to allow viable trading), the argument for relief for those sectors is not as strong as for sectors where restrictions may remain quite severe.
  • Providing targeted support – all parts of the economy have been impacted by this crisis, hence the broad nature of the initial rates relief package.  However, some sectors have been impacted more significantly and given the wide range of calls on public funding, there is a rationale that any further relief should be more targeted.
Finance NI
Download Finance NI PDF
InterTrade Ireland – Emergency Business Solutions
Purpose To ensures cross-border companies in manufacturing and tradeable services can avail of professional advice to address key business challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Eligible businesses
  • manufacturing or tradeable service business
  • registered in either NI or ROI
  • engaged in cross-border trade
  • fewer than 250 employees
  • annual turnover of less than £40million (or Euro Equivalent)

Not eligible

  • Businesses involved in retail, distribution and agriculture are not eligible for assistance under this scheme.
Amounts To the value of £2,000
Note: One of the areas ‘Rapidly repositioning your business strategy’ is delivered via 1:1 workshops. No other key areas can be used in conjunction with this option as the cost constitutes the total support amount of £2,000).
Key conditions
  • All applications are assessed against the eligibility criteria.
  • Sufficient detail must be provided in the application to allow for assessment (where limited detail is provided, your application is likely to be unsuccessful).
  • Priority will be given to businesses who best meet eligibility criteria and have clearly identified how this support will assist the business during this COVID-19 emergency period.
  • Applicants must have a satisfactory trading history (min. 18 months & established turnover)
  • Applicants must have the capacity to deliver the project
Key terms
  • Funding is provided under the European Commission Regulation on De Minimis Aid as stated in the application for Emergency Business Solutions.
  • Business must provide InterTrade Ireland with details of all other De Minimis aid which has been granted to the business within the past three years.
  • A false declaration by a business resulting in the threshold of €200,000 (or sterling equivalent) being exceeded could later give rise to the aid being recovered with interest.
  • Applications can be made online as early as possible as there is limited availability.



InterTrade Ireland – E-Merge Initiative – NI only
Purpose To provide emergency fully funded consultancy support to help businesses develop online sales and eCommerce solutions, such as website management, SEO optimisation, Product listing and many others.
Eligible businesses
  • manufacturing or tradeable service business
  • registered in either NI or ROI
  • engaged in cross-border trade
  • fewer than 250 employees
  • annual turnover of less than £40million (or Euro Equivalent)

Not eligible

  • Businesses involved in retail, distribution and agriculture
Amounts To the value of £2,500
Key conditions
  • Have a satisfactory trading history (min. 18 months & established turnover)
  • Have the capacity to deliver the project 
  • The funding is provided under the European Commission Regulation on De Minimis Aid as stated in the application for E-Merge.
  • The business must provide InterTradeIreland with details of all other De Minimis aid which has been granted to the business within the past three years.
  • It should be noted that a false declaration by a business resulting in the threshold of €200,000 (or Sterling equivalent) exceeded could later give rise to the aid being recovered with interest.
  • Applications should be made online as early as possible as there is limited availability.
Contact InterTrade Ireland   


UK Government Future Fund – UK-wide
Purpose To support firms across the UK to get through the pandemic by stimulating investment so that they can continue to break new ground in technology and innovation.
Eligible businesses
  • The Future Fund is open to UK-based firms, that have previously raised at least £250,000 in equity investment from third parties in the last 5 years.
  • They will also need to have investors to provide funding to be matched by the government and have half or more of their employees based in the UK or generate at least half of their revenue through UK sales.
  • UK-based companies can now apply for a convertible loan of between £125,000 and £5 million, to support continued growth and innovation in sectors as diverse as technology, life sciences and the creative industries.
  • The government has made an initial £250 million available for investment through the scheme and will consider increasing this if needed.
Key conditions
  • Companies can check they meet the criteria for funding by going to the British Business Bank website. If they have secured private match funding, one of their investors can register online to start the application process.
Key terms   Open for online applications from 20 May.


Charities Aid Foundation Emergency Fund – UK wide  - This fund is currently paused - 
Purpose CAF has launched a rapid response fund to help smaller charitable organisations affected by the impact of Covid-19.
Eligible businesses

Organisations with a charitable purpose and charitable activities, which had income of £1million or less in their last financial year.

This includes:

  • UK registered charities (registered with Charity Commission, Scottish Charity Regulator or Charity Commission for Northern Ireland, or as shown in the Charities Act 2010)
  • Organisations registered with Companies House or the Public Mutuals Register, as a charitable or not-for-profit entity, e.g. Community Interest Companies, Companies Limited by Guarantee and others 
  • Unregistered entities and social enterprises.
Amounts Organisations in the UK with charitable activities can apply for up to £10,000 to support day-to-day activities in the current health emergency or your Covid-19 emergency response activities.
Key conditions
  • It is possible that not all grants will be made at the full amount. Charities should apply for an amount that will make a suitable difference to the size and activities of their organisation.
  • Organisations can apply for unrestricted funding for core costs, staffing, volunteer costs, supplies and equipment, communications or other critical charitable areas. 
  • You must be able to describe how an emergency grant will improve the situation for your organisation and community.  
  • Only one application should be made; multiple applications will slow the process down and only one grant is possible for any organisation.
  • It is important to remember that this is intended as an emergency fund to enable charitable activities to continue at the moment in whatever way is needed; it is not designed to replace other lost income in the longer term.
There are a small number of exclusions to the fund:
  • Individuals, or groups of individuals who have come together recently to provide informal support services to their communities
  • Any organisation applying more than once.
Key terms  
  • It is anticipated that there will be a high level of requests for support. CAF will do their best to manage this proactively and provide a rapid response to organisations which need support. However, they are going to have to prioritise grants.
  • It is intended to be a rapid response fund and systems are in place to be able to review applications on a continuing basis.
  • If your organisation is not a registered charity, it is possible that further checks will need to be made and, if so, it may take slightly longer.
  • Grants aim to be paid to selected organisations within 14 days of application.
Contact CAF Online

Clothworkers’ Emergency Fund – UK wide - This Programme has now closed 
Purpose Grants for small and medium charities towards essential capital items to adapt or increase services in response to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
Eligible businesses
  • Organisations with an income of less than £2 million per annum.
  • Applications are only open to charities whose beneficiaries are not based in London.

Total fund of £300,000 with capital grants of up to £5,000 each.

Key conditions
  • Work of the applicant organisation must fall within the nine programme areas
  • Organisations that promote a particular religion or that only provide services to people of a particular religion will not be supported.
  • Organisations must demonstrate their not-for-profit status in the application form and accounts.
  • Capital grants awarded but not equal to more than 50% of your annual income.
Key terms  
  • Aim for a decision to be communicated within one week but it may take up to two weeks.
  • Capital projects that are planned as part of an organisation's ordinary course of business are not eligible.



NI Fishing Industry Support – NI only
Purpose The scheme has been announced to help prop up the fishing industry during the COVID-19 pandemic, after social distancing measures and the collapse of the European and domestic fish markets, have made trading virtually impossible.
Eligible businesses Vessel must be:
  • NI registered.
  • ·normally be active during the period March to May.
  • have had fish landings of at least £10,000 in 2019.
  • be under 28 metres long.
  • be available to fish.
Amounts £1.5 million package in monthly payments dependant on vessel size.
Key conditions
  • The assistance will be for three months with a maximum amount of total funding per ‘undertaking’ capped at around £104,000. 
  • It will be delivered via monthly payments varying with vessel size.


UK Charity’s sector support package – UK-wide
Purpose A package of support to ensure UK charities can continue their vital work during the pandemic.
Eligible businesses

Government departments are working at pace to identify priority recipients, but current eligible organisations are:

  • Charities providing key services and supporting vulnerable people.
  • Small and medium sized charities supporting those organisations at the heart of local communities.
  • £370m for frontline charities, including hospices and domestic-abuse charities
  • £360m provided for smaller charities, administered by the National Lottery Community Fund.
  • A minimum of £20m in matched donations as part of the BBC’s Big Night In fundraising event.


Coronavirus Community Fund – NI only

To support community groups working together, particularly in smaller geographical communities.

Eligible businesses

The current focus is to support groups and organisations working with the following communities and issues that are affected by coronavirus:

  • Older people (aged over 50) 
  • Those at increased risk, particularly in relation to poor mental health and wellbeing   
  • Vulnerable isolated people and families, particularly those living in rural areas, families where a parent/ both parents have lost their employment or where children are living in poverty
  • Children and young people’s projects, particularly focusing on the voice of young people and connecting through creative mediums
  • Black, Asian and ethnic minority communities.
  • It is anticipated those organisations who are providing small scale emergency support will require funding of around £1,000 to £2,500. 
  • Those supporting need on a longer-term basis, and/or who are significantly enhancing their services at this time, may require grants of up to £10,000.
Key conditions To encourage a partnership approach, one application from one lead organisation should be submitted, rather than a number of separate applications.

The Foundation will prioritise:

  • Initiatives that directly support those most at risk as a result of the threat of coronavirus, and clearly evidence the need for support.
  • Organisations with income levels of below £1 million per annum.
  • Running costs for organisations to provide such support, including volunteer expenses, staff costs, and transport, providing the organisation is focusing their attention on providing support to both existing, and any potential new beneficiaries.
  • Small capital costs are eligible, providing the capital item will address the priorities of the fund, and is linked to keeping the older person connected to the outside world.
Key terms  
  • As a temporary measure to help you submit your application and get help quickly you must submit a signed policy statement showing your intention to keep adults and children safe in the activities that you are proposing.
  • A signed copy of the guidelines that you will issue to volunteers is requested to show that they have been informed of good practice around how they will conduct themselves including how they will report concerns.
  • The Fund opened on 16 March 2020 and will remain open on a rolling-call basis.  A high level of interest is expected and depending on current funding available, and any future funds raised, it may close for applications within a relatively short space of time, if there are not enough funds to meet the demand for support.

Contact Community Foundation NI


Recovery Advice for Business Scheme – UK-wide
Purpose To offer free online advice to help small businesses bounce back from coronavirus.
Eligible businesses

The scheme is open to small businesses and expert advisers throughout the UK.

Key conditions

Each adviser has offered at least one hour of free advice a month until the end of 2020, which could deliver a lifeline to thousands of SMEs looking for support.

Key terms  
  • Participating businesses will be directed to the scheme on the Enterprise Nation platform via the GOV.UK website and other business support channels.
  • Businesses will then be asked questions on the ‘Make a Plan’ diagnostic tool. This will allow Enterprise Nation to assess and identify both the level and specific areas of support needed.
  • They will then be directed to a personalised dashboard where they will receive a detailed action plan which will include links to suggested tailored advice and relevant professional advisers willing to help.

Charities Fund – NI only

To help local charities facing financial difficulties as a result of the current public health emergency.

Eligible businesses

The funding programme will provide financial support to charities which have lost income due to the impact of COVID-19 and are unable to cover unavoidable costs until 30 September 2020.


  • Charities that can demonstrate that their fundraising or trading income has reduced due to the impact of COVID -19 and they have unavoidable costs to cover up to 30 September 2020.
  • Charities not eligible to apply are those who have received direct COVID-19 support from the following NI Executive schemes:
    • DofE Small Business Support 
    • Retail, Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure Grant 
    • Microbusiness Hardship Fund.  
    • DoF Support Fund for Hospices
  • £15.5 million in total
  • To ensure a broad distribution of the funds available, the maximum level of grant under this scheme will be £75,000.
Key conditions
  • Charities will be required to show that they have taken all reasonable steps to ensure their survival, including the utilisation of other funding sources and reducing activities to essential services over the immediate term. 
  • Campaigning activities and loan repayments will not be supported. 
  • This funding is to ensure the survival of the organisation and will not be awarded to support new activity.
  • Scheme will launch on 15 June.
Key terms  
  • Funding levels will be based on a proportionate assessment of a charity’s short-term financial need.
  • An award will be made for the amount of money required to cover immediate costs and prevent short term closure, which will vary in each situation.
  • This funding will be distributed as a one-off payment and is intended to cover unavoidable expenditure from 1 April 2020 to 30 September 2020.
Contact Communities NI
Innovation Continuity Loans – UK wide
 As part of their coronavirus response package, Innovate UK is offering loans to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and third sector organisations that have a challenge in continuing a live project for which they have an Innovate UK award.                     
Eligible businesses
  • Currently funded project participants in an Innovate UK award.
  • SMEs and third sector organisations.
  • Undertakings that find themselves facing a sudden shortage or even unavailability of funding resulting directly from the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Organisations that were not an undertaking in difficulty as of 31 December 2019 or, for micro and small companies only, even if they were already in financial difficulty on 31 December 2019 unless they are in insolvency proceedings, have received rescue aid that has not been repaid, or are subject to a restructuring plan under State aid rules. 
 Total package of up to £210 million.
Key conditions
  • Loans are for organisations that find themselves facing a sudden shortage or even unavailability of funds resulting directly from the COVID-19 pandemic. This innovation continuity loan may be suitable if you need funding of between £250,000 and £1,600,000.
  • Only single businesses can receive the loan, so each participant in a consortium funded through collaborative R&D must apply separately. Innovate UK will make a lending decision based on the viability of the project as a whole as well as on the suitability of the applicant for a loan. 
Key terms
  • Applicants will not be able to receive both an Innovate UK continuity grant and a continuity loan in relation to the same project. Funding will not be given to support furloughed staff or where the project will not be continued or where necessary, completed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The competition opened on the 7 May 2020 and will remain open for applications until funds are fully committed or 31 December, whichever is the earlier.

Creative Support Fund - NI only
  • To help sustain individuals and organisations and enable them to better respond to the new circumstances and to provide much needed breathing space for those working in the field of arts and culture.
  • The support package will build on the initial emergency package launched on 27 April that was heavily oversubscribed and it will give priority to those who have lost opportunities to use their skills.                                                                                      
Eligible businesses
Individuals and businesses working in the field of arts, creative industries, Irish language and Ulster Scots cultural centres. 
Amounts The awards will range from £1,000 to £5,000 with a maximum award available of £25,000.

Key conditions
  • The fund for individuals will open from 31 July until 17 August.
  • The organisational strand will reopen for new applications from small and medium sized organisations in August  
Key terms                

The New Needs Fund (Constituted organisations with charitable purposes) – NI only


  • To help organisations and communities to respond better, addressing new needs appearing as a result of the Coronavirus and where restrictions mean finding new ways of meeting existing needs.
  • To help organisations and communities to build back better, helping to ensure organisations can thrive and continue to provide longer-term support to communities. 
Eligible businesses
  • Constituted organisations with charitable purposes operating within Northern Ireland
  • Organisations whose income is £1 million or below
  • Organisations who have applied to the Coronavirus Community Fund are eligible to apply for financial support, providing this is for a new project in line with the New Needs fund criteria
  • Grassroots organisations working within their local community in particular to support the following beneficiaries:
  • Children and young people, in particular young women and girls
  • Older people
  • People with disabilities
  • People with poor mental health
  • Black, Asian and ethnic minorities
  • Rurally isolated people
  • People in poverty
  • Persons in institutions such as care homes (children in care, older people in care) rehabilitation centres
  • LGBTQ+ community
  • Anyone identified as discriminated and excluded; particularly when it comes to practice and policy                   
Amounts With grant sizes of between £1,000 to £15,000, it is the expectation that this funding will support organisations to continue to provide services over the next 6 to 7 months. 
Key conditions

The Foundation will prioritise:

  • Initiatives that empower and connect community-based organisations
  • Initiatives that have a clear social impact
  • Initiatives that involve those with lived experience
Organisations who have fewer live grants, ie: less than four live grants (with the Community Foundation), at any one time

Key terms  
  • The Community Foundation will not fund organisations or activities which promote causes that are contrary to our purposes. Causes and activities that are contrary to our purposes include, but may not be limited to, those outlined in our investment policy.  We will not therefore fund organisations or activities which we determine are linked to the promotion of armaments, alcohol, human rights abuses, tobacco or pornography.
  • The Fund will close for applications on Friday 28th August 2020 but will be assessed on a rolling call basis.  With significant demand anticipate, the fund may close for applications sooner than planned.  Groups are therefore encouraged to apply as soon as possible.


Industry Strategy Challenge Fund – UK wide



Grant funding for projects supporting the recovery and growth of foundation industries.  To ensure that these sectors remain internationally competitive and are ready to meet the government commitment of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Eligible businesses Foundation industries – cement, glass, ceramics, paper, metals and bulk chemicals.  UK businesses of any size and research and technology organisations may apply
Key conditions

Projects must demonstrate how they address resource or energy efficiency of foundation industries and support resilience and sustainability of the sector and its supply chains. Applicants can include techno-economic assessment of new products, services and business models and must:

  • help the UK’s foundation industries remain globally competitive and become more environmentally sustainable
  • indicate how the innovation helps meet the needs of business and/or industry as it emerges from Covid-19 pandemic and aids rapid recovery
  • demonstrate that the business has the capability to deliver the project
    We are looking to fund a portfolio of projects, across a variety of technologies, markets, sectors, technological maturities and research categories.

Projects can focus on one or more of the following areas:

  • establishing long-term viability of domestic supply chains
  • new markets
  • new business models
  • new products and services
  • new processes

Key terms    
  • The competition is open and the deadline for applications is at 11am on 4 November 2020
  • UK businesses of any size and research and technology organisations may apply
  • Total eligible costs must be between £100,000 and £1 million

Rural Micro Business Growth Scheme – NI only                                 


Purpose Grants for existing micro businesses to invest in innovation and new technologies. Innovations/technologies must improve efficiency and productivity, create growth in the rural economy and make a positive climate-related contribution The Scheme will also fund new business start-ups that introduce new products or services to the marketplace.            
Eligible businesses Your project must be located in a rural area. For the purposes of the Rural Micro Business Growth Scheme ‘rural’ is defined as all those areas outside the statutory development limits of those towns with a population in excess of 5,000 inhabitants.
The minimum grant support available is £5,000. The maximum grant will be £40,000. The grants can only fund up to 50 percent of eligible costs.
Key conditions  The application process will have 2 stages:
  • You must submit an Expression of Interest (EOI) form. The information you provide on the EOI form will be used to check that both the business and project are eligible.
  • If invited to submit a full application, you will have to provide more information that will allow further assessment of your project and your business. 
Key terms  
  • Funding for grants under this pilot scheme is limited and must be spent in the current financial year ending on 31 March 2021.
  • Your grant application will be in competition with others for the available funding and your application may not be successful.

Tourism NI – New Experience Development Programme                                                 

Purpose  To provide financial assistance to tourism providers creating experiences that reflect the new ‘Northern Ireland Embrace A Giant Spirit’ and to stimulate demand for local tourism. The programme will focus on attractions and other experience providers.                                        
Eligible businesses To apply you must be an existing tourism experience provider, located and operating in Northern Ireland. 

The amount of financial assistance available under this programme is between £5,000 and £200,000. Tourism NI financial assistance will not exceed:

• 80% of eligible project costs for private sector and voluntary/community sector applicants

• 50% of eligible project costs for public sector applicants.
Key conditions  

There are two steps to the application process: 

  • Step 1: ‘Expression of Interest’ form to be submitted no later than 14 September 2020 at 3pm. This will check your project’s eligibility against the Minimum Eligibility Criteria as outlined in the Programme Guidelines.

    You are encouraged to submit your Expression of Interest as soon as possible to ensure that where eligible you can proceed to the full application stage.

  • Step 2: full application form. The closing date for applications is 3pm on 25 September 2020, applications cannot be submitted after this time.   
Please note, if you are not deemed eligible after the first part of the process you will not be provided with a full application form to complete stage 2.
Key terms      
  • The programme is limited in terms of budget to support capital investment.
  • Sufficient expenditure must be incurred by 31 March 2021 to allow draw down of the full grant.
  • It is expected that you and your appointed contractors/suppliers will liaise closely with Tourism NI and their consultants during implementation.
  • Following implementation of the project, Tourism NI will seek necessary assurances that the work has been undertaken appropriately.
  • Applicants from Voluntary / Community sector will be required to have a Charity No. as evidence that they qualify for this status.

Covid-19 Equity Investment Fund – NI only                                                                             



To help early-stage high-growth-potential businesses in Northern Ireland access financing to progress their business plans and prepare for recovery and growth.

Eligible businesses
 As an early-stage high-growth-potential business, you are eligible if:
  • The majority of your business operation is based in Northern Ireland.
  • Your business is an unlisted small and medium-sized business (SME) operating in a market for less than seven years following the first commercial sale.
  • Your business was not in financial difficulty or subject to insolvency procedures at 31 December 2019, but has been adversely impacted by COVID-19, including in its ability to raise financing.
  • You can quantify the impact which the CEIF support will have on your business, such as for research and development into new products and/or helping you access new sales and marketing opportunities.
  • You can demonstrate your business has innovative technology, a significant international market opportunity, export growth prospects, credible promoters and a scalable business model.
  • You can demonstrate how the funding will increase the value of your business and outline potential exit opportunities.
  • You have already sourced investment from other investors but still have a shortfall in what you need to achieve your business plan.
  • £5 million in total.
  • The Fund will provide matching equity investment or convertible loan notes of up to a maximum of £700,000 for technology and innovative businesses.
Key conditions You must review your funding needs with existing and potential funders and be able to confirm there is a gap as a direct result of COVID-19.
Key terms  
  • Applications for CEIF opened on Wednesday 9 September.
  • All legal documentation must be completed by 12 noon on 31 December 2020

Digital Selling Capability Grant – NI only


Purpose Aimed at helping retail and wholesale businesses grow online sales, the Digital Selling Capability Grant (‘DSCG’) is part of a wider COVID-19 support package to help eligible businesses progress recovery plans, strengthen supply chains, develop new products and access finance.                        
Eligible businesses  As a small or medium-sized retailer or wholesaler, you are eligible if:
  • Your business operation is based in Northern Ireland.
  • You are a small or medium-sized business employing 10 or more full-time equivalent staff in Northern Ireland.
  • Your business has an existing online presence such as a business website or social media channels.
  • Your business has a physical product, or a range of physical products, that can be sold online and shipped to customers.
  • In the past 12 months, more than 50 percent of your revenue has come from offline sales instead of online sales.
  • Your project is not receiving any other public funding such as government or European Union funding.
  • You are able to deliver your project, pay the costs in full and submit your claim to Invest NI before 26 March 2021.
  • £1million in total.
  • A maximum grant of £20,000 to eligible small and medium-sized retailers to support 50 percent of eligible costs. 
Key conditions
  • DSCG is now open to applications
  • You can use the online eligibility checker to find out if you can apply for the Grant.
  • Projects must have a minimum eligible expenditure of £10,000.
Key terms  
  • Your project will be assessed based on the information you provide in your application form and must be submitted before the closing deadline of 6pm on Wednesday 7 October 2020.
  • Your application will first be checked against the DSCG eligibility criteria. If eligible, an Invest NI Assessment Panel will then evaluate your application.
  • Funding will be awarded to applicants that have achieved the minimum score of 60 until the available £1 million budget is fully allocated, ranked in order of the highest to lowest score.

Apprenticeship Challenge Fund – UK wide         


  • To promote greater collaboration between employers and suppliers, whilst maintaining the employers’ role at the centre of the apprenticeship system and creating room for the Department for the Economy (DfE) to take a more creative and innovative approach to solving problems.
  • To provide a short to medium-term benefit, and assist with mitigation of the impact of COVID-19 on the skills pipeline by expanding apprenticeship provision into new sectors, places, or types of employer.                                      
Amounts The Challenge Fund will have a budget of up to £500,000. Successful applicants will receive one-off awards of up to £50,000, although there is an option to increase for proposals with multiple partners or features.
Key conditions  
  • DfE will assess the outcomes and benefits of successful proposals and consider how they can support DfE’s strategic objective to increase participation in the apprenticeship system in the longer term.
  • Funding will be via a grant to successful applicants following a competitive assessment process.
  • Eligible costs will be identified in a Letter of Offer to successful applicants, but could typically include staff costs, the costs involved in collaboration/engagement, marketing, etc.
Key terms  It is anticipated that the Challenge Fund will open for applications in October 2020 with awards made in November 2020.


Apprenticeship Return, Retain and Result initiative – UK wide 


Purpose To provide incentive payments to employers to support the return, retention and result for apprentices.     
Eligible businesses This scheme will begin on 1 November 2020 and is open to employers participating in the Department for the Economy funded Apprenticeships NI or Higher Level Apprenticeship programmes, who have returned their furloughed apprentices to work since April 2020. 

The total amount payable under the scheme will be a maximum of £3,700 per apprentice, distributed as follows:

  • Return - £500 per returned furloughed apprentice payable for the first full month of paid apprenticeship from 1 November 2020.
  • Retain – maximum of £2,000 available: £500 per month for up to 4 months of paid apprenticeship between 1 December 2020 and 31 March 2021.
  • Result - £1,200 for successful full framework achievement of a returned furloughed apprentice.
Key conditions

It is important that you retain evidence of when:

  • your apprentice was furloughed
  • your apprentice returned and was retained, in paid employment during the period claimed, this can be up to the total period of 5 months (1 month return and up to 4 months retained) and,
your apprentice has continued and completed their paid apprenticeship.
Key terms   The scheme will begin on 1 November 2020, when the UK-wide Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme ends.

Apprenticeship Recruitment Incentive Initiative – UK wide


Purpose  To encourage and support employers to create apprenticeship opportunities for both:
  • ·new apprentices; and
  • apprentices who have been made redundant due to financial difficulties during COVID-19.                                                                                           
Eligible businesses This scheme is open to employers who take on an apprentice participating in the DfE-funded Apprenticeships NI or Higher Level Apprenticeship programmes. 
  • A total fund of £12 million
  • £3,000 for each new apprenticeship created.

      Payment 1 - £2,000 after 90 days’ retention

      Payment 2 - £1,000 after 200 days’ retention from first employment

Key conditions The payment will apply equally to employers of all sizes and in all sectors right across Northern Ireland for each new apprenticeship opportunity created between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021. 
Key terms   As part of the application process, checks will be made to ensure that apprentices on similar pathways have not been displaced to support recruitment; if this is found to be the case, eligibility may be impacted.

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