Few industries have been so acutely affected by the coronavirus outbreak as travel.
Beyond the high-profile collapse of at least one airline buckling under the pressure of travel bans, we’ve seen countless others impacted by the cancellation of flights, holiday bookings and events.
Thankfully, the government has said it will do “whatever it takes” to support small businesses.
Following last week’s ambitious Budget, Tuesday saw the government announce a further £350 billion package to help small businesses which are struggling to cope.
This could not come at a more crucial time.
The package includes a complete moratorium on business rates for those in retail, leisure or hospitality sectors for one year.
Many small firms in the travel industry should qualify – it’s best to speak to your local authority as soon as possible if in any doubt.
Meanwhile, those who qualify for the Retail Discount can access cash grants of £25,000, and all those that qualify for small business rates relief – with rateable values under £15,000 – can access grants of £10,000.
Clearly this is good news for many businesses in the travel sector, but we do not yet know exactly when these grants will become available.
We have been reassured that letters will be issued to all those who qualify – we’d recommend getting on the case to your local authority now to help inject some urgency into proceedings.
Other measures announced include a commitment to underwrite £330 billion worth of commercial lending.
You can access these underwritten loans through your bank. If you’re interested in securing one, it’s best to start a conversation about it as soon as you can.
The chancellor has also said he will work with business groups to develop an Employment Support Package which will help to mitigate costs for small firms, thereby preventing lay-offs, and will provide support for the self-employed.
So, what can you do if you are worried?
Do not be afraid to talk. During these difficult times, have conversations with the relevant authorities, your bank, landlord, customers, employees, other business owners and your membership body.
Here at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), we can provide access to legal, tax and insurance experts round the clock – as well as health professionals, who can lend an ear if you just want to chat.
HMRC is going to be key in this crisis and has now set up a dedicated phoneline for coronavirus-related challenges, with options to defer or delay payment.
It will also waive late payment penalties and interest, but if you are unable to pay on time, you should contact HMRC immediately.
We also hope that landlords will take a generous approach to their small business tenants, particularly in areas with high rents.
If you’re struggling, contact your landlord to try to work out an agreement.
And speak with your customers. Use this moment to impress the importance of prompt payment and issue invoices for work done, so they can be processed while the finance teams in large businesses are still operating.
With public health interventions now ramped up, and the situation intensifying, we can expect more from the government in the coming weeks.
There are difficult days ahead for the small business community, but the chancellor has made it clear that the government will back us.
Mike Cherry is National Chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses.