Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is launching a new COVID-19 Local Business Support Scheme to help businesses unable to access support from existing Scottish and UK Government business schemes.
Comhairle Leader, Councillor Roddie Mackay, said: “We’ve heard from many businesses that are falling through the cracks of the existing support schemes, so we’ve listened to that and are making grant funding available of up to £5,000 to support local businesses through this crisis and help them prepare for recovery.
“With our limited financial resources, we have to target support where it is most needed.
"This is just one of a number of measures the Comhairle has taken to support local businesses.
"Last week it was agreed to offer all small businesses a three-month deferral on loan repayments, as well as offering support to tenants in Comhairle properties.
"The Comhairle is also leading a multi-agency Business Resilience Group focused on engaging with and reaching out to all sectors of the business community across the islands."
Chairman of Sustainable Development, Councillor Donald Crichton, said: “I would like to thank everyone involved in establishing the COVID-19 Local Business Support Scheme. We are committed to doing as much as we can to ensure our local businesses survive and I am pleased that we now have a scheme in place which can provide emergency financial support to local businesses.”
The Comhairle is also managing the Scottish Government Business Support Scheme. To date more than 450 applications have been received with more than £1.6m paid out to small businesses throughout the Western Isles.
Further information on the Scottish Government Business Support Grant can be found at:https://www.cne-siar.gov.uk/news/2020/march/scottish-government-s-business-support-grants/
Further information on the Local Business Support Grant can be found at the Business Resilience section of the Comhairle’s website.
Earlier Shadow Finance Secretary Donald Cameron warned that the Scottish Government will need to act urgently to deliver an economic support package.
Mr Cameron made his comments after the Fraser of Allander Institute estimated that if the current coronavirus-related restrictions last to the summer, “Scottish GDP could contract by 20-25%.”
Mr Cameron, a Highlands and Islands MSP, said: “A contraction of this magnitude would be brutal for jobs, growth and prosperity.
“The service sector could be down by 20% which would have enormous implications for the Highlands and Islands.
“For instance, the report forecasts a severe contraction in the accommodation sector which forms a bedrock of the regional economy.
“Everyone understands the public health need for lockdown at the moment.
“But this warning makes it all the more essential that the Scottish Government gets its economic support package absolutely right and that it is tailored for the differing needs of the regions and not just focused on the Central Belt.
“As it stands, businesses of all sizes, right across the country, are concerned that hasn’t been the case.”