Rishi Sunak announces £6k grants and SICK PAY for desperate pubs and restaurants hit by Omicron12/21/2021
DESPERATE pubs and restaurants were today thrown a lifeline as Rishi Sunak pledged £6,000 emergency grants and Government-funded sick pay to soften the blow of Omicron.
The Chancellor unveiled a bumper £1billion package to stop hospitality venues going to the wall after suffering a flood of cancellations from cautious Brits.
Strict guidance to limit gatherings has taken a wrecking ball to businesses' golden Christmas trading period and seen December profits tank by 60 per cent.
Following a clamour for help, Mr Sunak this afternoon announced one-off £6,000 grants for 200,000 hospitality and leisure venues.
More than £100million will be funnelled to local councils to use for other venues in need of emergency cash.
He also said the Government would revive the Statutory Sick Pay scheme for staff forced to isolate as the super-variant threatens millions of absences.
From today the Treasury will bankroll the £96.35 a week for workers forced to take time off with Covid. Bosses can make retrospective claims from mid-January.
Only small firms of less than 250 employees are eligible for this support package, leaving big business to cover the cost themselves.
Boris Johnson said: "With the surge in Omicron cases, people are rightly exercising more caution as they go about their lives, which is impacting our hospitality, leisure and cultural sectors at what is typically the busiest time of the year.
"That's why we’re taking immediate action to help with an extra £1billion in grants to these industries and reintroducing our Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme."
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Mr Sunak added: "We recognise that the spread of the Omicron variant means businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors are facing huge uncertainty, at a crucial time.
"So we're stepping in with £1 billion of support, including a new grant scheme, the reintroduction of the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme and further funding released through the Culture Recovery Fund."
He pledged a further £30million to help cash-strapped museums and galleries keep going this winter.
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The PM has refused to rule out fresh Covid measures and is on the brink of announcing a post-Christmas circuit-breaker.
A mooted return to Step 2 measures would force hospitality to close indoors and strike another blow to business.
Pub and restaurant bosses have been crying out for more support and met with the Chancellor last night.
Kate Nicholls, boss of UK Hospitality, said: “Businesses are dying on their feet.
"They are stuck in limbo. The continued uncertainty is hanging over businesses and people are voting with their feet. We have seen cancellations all the way through to April. We need financial support.”
Many restaurants have decided to cut their losses and close early for Christmas as punters stay away.
While others have been forced to close because of Omicron outbreaks.
Owners have been contacting their local MPs begging them for clarity so they know how much cash to spend buying food, beer and wine.
Tory MP and Red Wall poster girl Dehenna Davison said: “In the last two days, I’ve had pubs and restaurants contact me asking if they should place food and drinks orders.
"I’ve had emails from people asking if they should postpone their wedding for the fifth time, or if they can see their mum on Christmas."
Labour's Pat McFadden said: "This is a holding package from a Government caught in a holding position.
"The Prime Minister is a prisoner of divisions inside his party and within the Cabinet about whether any further measures are needed and whether they will get past Tory backbenchers.
"That is not the way that crucial public health decisions should be taken."
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