The Welsh government has released an additional £100m to support businesses after an unprecedented rate of applications to its Economic Resilience Fund.
The Fund was launched on Friday and aims to complement schemes run by the UK government, including the Job Retention Scheme. Micro-enterprises can apply for grants of up to £10,000 from the fund, while SMEs can apply for grants of up to £100,000. Within the first 24 hours after the launch of the fund on Friday, more than 6,000 grant applications were made, it has been revealed.
The large number of applications reveals the scale of the challenges facing businesses in Wales, many of which have been adversely affected by the virus pandemic and the lockdown measures it has led to.
The announcement of a further £100 million being released for the fund takes the grant fund to a total of £300 million. Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales Ken Skates said;
“The rate of applications has been massive and unprecedented. This is the second time in a matter of weeks that access to Welsh Government funds aimed at easing cash flow pressures for Welsh business have quickly reached capacity, and we have responded with pace to release a further £100m into this phase of the fund.
“In these difficult and demanding economic times we have worked hard to free up resources to create such a large Fund despite the huge demands on our budget, and to strike a balance between supporting as many enterprises as possible and making a meaningful contribution to each one’s survival, as well as asking each recipient to sign up to the principles of the economic contract.”
Mr Skates also said that while the Welsh government ‘applaud’ the UK Government for much of what it has done, it needs to ‘continue to support and press the high street banks to be much more responsive to the needs of our businesses at this difficult time.’
Finance Minister Rebecca Evans also called on the UK government to do more, saying “We know that support for business is crucially important but whilst we are doing everything we can in Wales to plug any gaps and provide the best possible financial support to businesses, it is clear there are further steps that the UK Government needs to urgently take.”
Many business leaders have welcomed the government’s expansion of the fund. Ian Price, CBI Wales Director said;
“The CBI welcomes today’s allocation of a further release of £100m from the £500m Economic Resilience Fund, announced by the Welsh Government on the 30th of March. Welsh firms of all sizes and all parts of our nation are facing unprecedented challenge as they respond to the social, economic and health impacts of the coronavirus. Similar to the support provided by the UK Job Retention Scheme, Welsh businesses will be keen to receive these funds in their bank accounts so they can continue to support their staff, secure their business and plan for the post-Covid economy.”
The release of more funding for the scheme also comes after the first stage of the Economic Resilience Fund, a £100 million Development Bank of Wales’ loan scheme, was fully subscribed in just over a week after being launched at the end of last month.