Businesses are set to benefit from a new £5 million grant funded by Durham County Council to help them implement recovery plans to overcome the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The COVID-19 crisis has had a significant impact on the economy and recovery is likely to take time, particularly with the current lockdown and potential for further tiered restrictions in the future. Businesses continue to face challenges in being able to return to normal trading, as well as increased costs of adapting workplaces and methods of operation, at the same time as suffering reduced levels of income.

Unlike previous grants announced by the government, the new £5 million council funded Durham Business Recovery Grant will support County Durham businesses in their efforts to adapt and recover, to meet their current challenges and to develop new ways of working.

The grant scheme, overseen by Business Durham, the economic development arm of Durham County Council, aims to provide financial assistance for the implementation of business recovery plans; helping firms that have a credible plan to adapt and recover but require additional financial support to be able to implement it.

The scheme offers grants from £1,000 up to a maximum of £40,000 and will contribute 75% towards  eligible recovery plan costs, with the business expected to meet a quarter of the project cost.

The grant scheme is open to companies across County Durham, in all sectors and varying in size from micro-businesses to those employing up to 250 people in the County.  Businesses must also have been established prior to March 11, 2020.

The Durham Business Recovery Grant Scheme will support more than 880 firms and have the potential to safeguard over 1,760 jobs, across the county.

Cllr Simon Henig, Leader of Durham County Council, said: “The coronavirus pandemic is having a significant and ongoing impact on businesses and the economy across County Durham and with current and the potential for further lockdown restrictions it is vital we do what we can to help businesses recover. In recognising that challenge, Durham County Council has agreed to provide a substantial £5 million worth of grant support for the new Durham Business Recovery Grant scheme.

“This is a significant investment for the Council, which together with our plans to increase County Durham’s social value and community wealth building demonstrates our commitment to local businesses and developing a sustainable economy for the long term.”

Cllr Carl Marshall Durham County Council’s cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “During the coronavirus pandemic County Durham businesses have displayed significant resilience in rising to the challenges both lockdowns and tiered restrictions have brought. Many of them have demonstrated tremendous agility, adaptability and innovation, which has enabled them to diversify to survive by selling to new markets and manufacturing different products.

“Through the support from the Durham Business Recovery Grant, we can ensure businesses with recovery plans can access the necessary financial assistance to move forward, enabling them to adapt and thrive while safeguarding jobs. By supporting companies in our county, we are in turn ensuring our economy is resilient and in the best possible shape to in time recover from the impact of the pandemic.”

Amy Harhoff, Corporate Director of Regeneration, Economy and Growth at Durham County Council, said: “The months ahead are going to continue to be challenging for businesses, but we know companies across their County need to look ahead and develop their plans to adapt and recover.  The Durham Business Recovery Grant will provide much needed financial support to enable companies to take their plans forward.  The grant will be available in tranches, so we suggest companies take some time to develop a credible plan and make use of advice available from Business Durham and other support providers before applying for the funding.

“The Durham Business Recovery Grant differs from government grants as it is designed to help businesses achieve their plans for new ways of working.  We are looking for businesses from all sectors with a credible plan to look to the future and hope this grant, along with all the other support available from Business Durham, Government and other organisations, can help business thrive in 2021.”

Ben Gilhespy, Director of Operations, Engineering and Manufacturing Network, said: “2020 has been one of the most difficult years in memory for engineering and manufacturing businesses and has seen a shift of focus to survival rather than growth. Recovery is now critical in 2021 for one of our region’s most important sectors and biggest employers where we can explore new opportunities both in existing and developing markets. The potential to see financial support for this through the Durham Business Recovery Grant will allow businesses to realise their plans more quickly and possibly even implement ones that may otherwise not have been possible.”

For further information on the Business Recovery Grant and to check eligibility criteria, visit www.businessdurham.co.uk.