Chief Minister today announced the new measures Government is introducing to provide further support to businesses that have been closed as a result of the measures introduced on the 27th December to combat the ongoing pandemic. The statement by the Chief Minister was included as part of today’s Press Conference on matters related to COVID 19 and the social lock down which has already been announced.
The recent significant spike in the number of active cases in Gibraltar have vindicated the decisions taken by Government in December to initially close restaurants at short notice and subsequently close non-essential retail businesses in order to stem increasing numbers.
The new BEAT 5.0 measures are targeted at those businesses that have been closed down, and further providing increased support to other firms for the month of January.
All of these new measures are in addition to the existing support that businesses have been receiving which cover the period from 1 January 2021 to 31 March 2021, as announced by the Chief Minister’s Statement to Parliament on the 10 December 2020:
The existing measures are as follows;
1. A payment of 30% of the original BEAT grant scheme;
2. A 100% waiver of payment of rates for the wholesale, retail, hotel, bar & restaurant sectors;
3. For all other sectors an additional 25% early rates payment discount (except for supermarkets and pharmacies);
4. A discount of 50% on all Government rent and licence fees, and 25% for private landlords;
5. A restriction on all rental and licence fee increases;
6. A waiver of tables and chairs licences fees on Government owned premises and a 50% reduction on private sector premises;
7. Continued import duty waiver scheme for businesses;
8. Waiver of work permit and registration and administrative fees;
9. Moratorium on Insolvency claims;
10. Bank Guarantee Scheme to enable lending to Covid related distressed businesses.
The above measures were designed and intended to assist businesses that were open and whose customers were not locked down. These measures were designed and intended to provide support as businesses were beginning to start to ramp up their activity towards the levels experienced prior to the pandemic. The tighter restrictions announced on 27 December regrettably directed a significant additional number of businesses to close down.
As a consequence of that direct intervention, Government has put together a package of further measures that is being made available to those affected businesses and more generally to increase support to others also affected by the latest lockdown. This new package of measures generally compliments and adds to the existing measures listed above and will have the effect of meeting a very significant part of the costs of these businesses during this time.
BEAT 5.0 – INCREASED BEAT PAYMENTS
The January BEAT payment for businesses that were closed by Government order on the 28th December 2020 will be increased from 30% to 100% for the month of January only.
For those businesses not required to close and who remain able to operate, the January BEAT payment will be automatically increased from 30% to 40%.
Government hopes and expects that businesses will reopen by the 31st January, at which time all BEAT payments will revert to the 30% previously being paid and these payments will continue until 31st March 2021.
MAKING A CLAIM
All businesses that were required to close down, and others currently in receipt of BEAT support payments, will receive an email from Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar inviting them to claim for these measures by completing the appropriate form that will be attached to that email. Catering and restaurant businesses are also able to apply. The deadline for receipt of these applications is 15 January 2021.
The scheme is also open to self-employed people who are working within any of the sectors that the Government have closed down.
New businesses (including newly registered, self-employed persons) from these sectors that have not previously received BEAT are also invited to apply by requesting the claim form from firstname.lastname@example.org
To facilitate the process businesses are encouraged to complete and submit the form in Excel format.
IT MUST BE NOTED BY CLAIMANTS THAT HMGOG REQUIRES THAT BUSINESSES IN RECEIPT OF THE 100% BEAT PAYMENT HONOUR THE CONTRACTED SALARY PAYMENTS THAT THEY ARE REQUIRED TO MAKE TO THEIR EMPLOYEES BASED ON THEIR TERMS OF EMPLOYMENT OR THE PAYMENTS PROVIDED FOR UNDER BEAT 1.0 FOR THOSE ON ZERO HOUR OR AGENCY CONTRACTS, UP TO A MAXIMUM OF £1,155.
Participating businesses may, however, retain any surplus solely and exclusively for meeting their ongoing business expenses.
Businesses will be required to confirm that they are up to date with their tax and social insurance obligations but PAYE (on earnings up to £1,155) and social insurance will be waived for the month of January only. This will follow the same mechanism that was adopted for BEAT 1.0.
As with previous BEAT payments, HMGoG will aim to make payments on or before the end of the month.
RENTAL DISCOUNT SCHEME
For the month of January only, the rental discount scheme will be increased from 25% to 50% for private tenancies matching the discounts being provided to Government owned premises for those businesses that have been required to close. Government sincerely appreciates the continued support of our private landlords in providing this discount. This is expected to be a temporary increase to the rental discount scheme for the month of January only.
LOAN & MORTGAGE REPAYMENTS
The Government will also be asking all lenders to work positively with any borrower who might need a one month repayment holiday in respect of business loans, mortgages or other borrowings.
WAIVER OF RATES FOR VOID PROPERTIES
Following representations made by the Gibraltar Landlord’s Association at the latest CELAC meeting, Government will be introducing a rates waiver for any business premises that are vacant and unoccupied from 1 January 2021 to 31 December 2021. Applications to claim this relief should be made to the Valuation Officer at LPS’s Rates Department.
The Minister for Business, Tourism, Transport and The Port, the Hon Vijay Daryanani, stated: “We believe that affected businesses will welcome these new measures, in particular the increased BEAT payment to 100% and the increased rental discount scheme. Taking these measures together, businesses can count on the right support towards their employee costs and other business expenses. We have listened to CELAC and are seeking to provide the best support we can in the circumstances, and provide the comfort and certainty that these measures will continue until the 31st March 2021 at the appropriate rate.”
The Chief Minister, the Hon Fabian Picardo MP QC, stated: “As the year starts we can see a way out of this pandemic and we hope to start our vaccination program in the coming days. Nonetheless we recognise that the Government has had to lock down parts of the economy in the interests of containing this health pandemic and preserving life. This increased financial support package is a result of the advice we took from CELAC and builds on our past experience now with some end in sight. It is a package that is flexible and quick to deploy; it is easy for businesses to understand and it is straightforward for Government to administer over what we hope will be a short but important period. It is also a scheme that can be extended in its duration if we are advised that it is necessary to extend the lockdown beyond January. As the measures are ones that businesses are now used to, this support also adds a degree of certainty in cashflow terms at a time that these businesses will truly need it. We also understand the difficulties landlords may find themselves in such as and in appreciation of the challenges being faced by many landlords, we are providing support in respect of rates concessions for voids properties and we continue to discuss workable solutions with the landlords association in respect of additional ways in which to support the property sector.”