It is clear from Invest NI’s wide engagement with businesses and feedback from business groups over the last few days that the economic impact of COVID-19 is accelerating. It is vital that we work closely together to support the economy and limit damage that would be harder to recover.
We recognise the priority on health, wellbeing and protecting the most vulnerable in our society and we will support this wherever possible.
We welcome the NI Executive’s announcement of a £367m package of grants which will provide urgently needed funding to some 30,000 business in Northern Ireland.
We also welcome the indications from the UK Government and NI Executive that further measures will be announced in the coming days to support individuals, their families and the economy. Our ministers are working hard to ensure Northern Ireland considerations are addressed.
There are other immediate actions which we need to take to protect and preserve our economy for the longer term. Many businesses face short term challenges to meet employee costs and some have already taken the difficult decision to reduce employment levels in the face of uncertainty.
At times of crisis it is important that we keep the economy working. We encourage businesses to retain people in employment, particularly while support measures are in sight, and to maintain payments to suppliers so businesses can survive.
This may involve adopting a flexible approach to redeploying labour, either within their own companies, or in other sectors where there is current demand. We are engaged with some companies who have seen a significant increase recently in demand and we aim to identify and connect them with potential sources of labour. We are working with businesses and business bodies to try and match the need for vital goods and services with businesses that have the skills and capability.
Where possible, we are supporting businesses that can change their normal business activity to help with current shortages, for example the government request for ventilators earlier this week.
The recently amended Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, (CBILS) will offer loans of up to £5m for small businesses to help companies through these turbulent times. We recognise the importance of this being fast and available in Northern Ireland.
We provide an extensive range of products and support which are available to companies throughout Northern Ireland. Several of our existing support schemes can be used in the current situation and new schemes are being rapidly developed. Invest NI’s priority is to support the economy and sustain businesses vital to long-term recovery and growth.
Our Business Support Team are available on 0800 181 4422 to respond to business queries and signpost them to the most appropriate support. This remains in place as we move to remote working.
Our corporate websites (investni.com/covid19response) and nibusinessinfo.co.uk contain the latest business news, Frequently Asked Questions and other information etc specifically to help businesses respond to the challenges presented by COVID-19.
Our experienced Client Executives have strong sectoral knowledge and the whole Invest NI team are on hand to provide the best possible support and guidance.
Invest NI has a long history of working in partnership with businesses, their representative organisations and all stakeholders to develop and grow the local economy. We will maintain that goal.
We encourage businesses to continue to share feedback with us through our Client Executives or our other channels to ensure that we are able to provide the most effective and efficient support to businesses at this time.