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Council provides financial lifeline to hard-hit firms

June 3, 2021

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Hundreds of Covid-hit Sunderland businesses have received a major lifeline, after the City Council announced it has agreed a £700,000 extension to a pivotal support scheme.

The Restart Extension Grant has provided a lifeline to approximately 250 firms that were unable to tap into the government's most recently announced covid support grants towards the latter stages of the crisis.

The grants support businesses in the hospitality, accommodation and leisure (HAL) sectors, non-essential retailers and personal care providers - operating from shared premises - as well as those in the supply chain, that previously qualified for the discretionary elements of the scheme matching Local Restrictions Support Grants (LRSG).  The grants are funded by the Council's Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) allocation from central government.

In total, almost £8 million has been distributed to city businesses via the ARG fund, providing much needed support to a wide range of businesses that have been impacted by the pandemic.

Cllr Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: "We are delighted to be increasing our support to some of the city's hardest hit businesses in what has been an incredibly testing time for traders across the nation.

The Restart Extension Grant scheme not only helps us reach out to those operating in sectors that have been hardest hit by lockdown measures, but also those in their supply chains that didn't meet the criteria for the National Restart Grant.

One such company to benefit from the Restart Extension Grant scheme has been Belle Tents, a family-owned marquee hire business which has been rooted in the city for over 30 years and supplies hospitality and events businesses across the region, including the Sunderland International Airshow.

Daryl Scaife, managing director of Belle Tents, said: "As a business that specialises in bringing people together, we were really heavily impacted by the social distancing measures brought about by the pandemic.

"Events such as graduations, weddings and religious ceremonies, as well as the air show and corporate functions, make up the bulk of our work in the spring and summer months and the cancelling of events meant we lost out on the majority of our custom.

"Luckily, we were able to qualify for ARG funding and I can't thank the team enough for their support. While events are finally starting to return, functions such as weddings are still being pushed back and this support has been key to helping us cope with the downturn and ensuring we can pick up where we left off once we return to normality."

Cllr Miller added: "Many of the businesses we've supported through this scheme are well-established, sustainable businesses that have operated and created job opportunities in the city for many years and who, without this support, would have probably struggled to stay afloat.

"Through the ARG fund, we've strived to support as many of the city's businesses as possible and are proud to have been able to support around 250 firms in what has undoubtedly been one of the most challenging trading periods in living history."

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