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Warning that small businesses face stark struggle

MANY small local business are facing a stark struggle for survival unless they receive urgent financial support from the Department for Economy to guard against the impact of the coronavirus recession, it has been warned.

Fears for the future of hundreds of enterprises remain despite the announcement from the Stormont Finance Minister, Conor Murphy, last week, that some sectors, including retail and hospitality, will receive 100 per-cent rates relief until March 2021.

But speaking to the Chronicle, Newtownstewart-based optician, Alan Bryden, stressed that the situation for many remained extremely uncertain.

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“If you’re in a sector where that financial supporting is being received or that option isn’t there, then long-term a lot of small businesses are going to struggle. Some are already making the decision to close,” he said.

“They are in a business sector which needs to be supplying specific industries that are closed and as a result are not able to support themselves. A lot of them are running on red, and don’t have a lot of cashflow reserves and that’s especially the case for those who are working just for themselves or with only one or two employees.

“Most of them rely on a monthly income and if that is very limited then they’re not going to survive and are not entitled to that support.

“For me, the problem is real problem is the lack of certain information. Governments are working on a cautious approach for fear of risking more cases, but the lack of clarity is impacting on local businesses.

“We have to weigh the risks up on a county and country basis. Many business face the prospect of having to shutdown because they don’t have any other options and it’s so hard to know what can be done.

West Tyrone MP, Orfhlaith Begley, welcomed the rates relief for businesses in the retail, hospitality, tourism, lesiure and childcare sectors. But she warned that the criteria set-out by the Economy Minister, Diane Dodds, would mean that many businesses would be left behind.

“These businesses have been under significant pressure to meet financial commitments to keep their businesses open, but effectively they have been abandoned yet again,” she said.

“The Economy Minister needs to listen and recognised the plight of small businesses. Their survival depends on support from the Hardship Fund.”

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