Spend Local initiative could be brought back in the new year

TARGETED ‘Spend Local’ funds could be issued to Islanders to support businesses hardest hit by Covid-19 guidelines, according to the Economic Development Minister.

Senator Lyndon Farham
Senator Lyndon Farham

Senator Lyndon Farnham said he would support relaunching the Spend Local scheme – which earlier this year saw every Islander given £100 to spend in Island businesses.

He said: ‘Spend Local is still under discussion, but given the sudden shock to sectors like health and fitness, and to hospitality, I would like to see the scheme reactivated in some form in the New Year.’

Treasury Minister Susie Pinel has previously stated that the impact of the initiative, including the amounts spent in individual sectors such as retail or hospitality, would be assessed before a decision was made about whether to repeat it.

Senator Farnham also said that support for businesses would increase as further Covid-19 restrictions take effect. He said the maximum level of support would increase to 80% of wages and to a maximum of £1,600 per month.

The upper limit for support had previously been fixed at 60%, but Senator Farnham said this figure had been changed after further restrictions to combat the Island’s soaring rates of infection had been enacted.

Among the sectors to benefit will be hospitality, with licensed premises being forced to close from yesterday and likely to remain shut until at least early January.

‘Those businesses that have been forced to close will be able to apply for the maximum level of support,’ Senator Farnham said, confirming that applications for November were now being processed.

Payroll support is based on the financial detriment experienced by businesses compared with the same period a year ago, with the compensation equating to the level of detriment plus 20%.

Simon Soar, chief executive of the Jersey Hospitality Association, said he was pleased to see the increase to payroll support.

‘At this stage it all helps and we will continue to liaise with government and work to ensure that staff are not lost and that businesses can survive,’ he said.

Mr Soar also welcomed the prospect of Spend Local coming back.

‘The idea with Spend Local was that the cards had the ability to be reused and some time during the January to March period would be ideal for this,’ he said. ‘If the scheme does return after the devastation of having to close through December, it would certainly help during the months when businesses wouldn’t expect to be as profitable and would normally be using the profits from Christmas and New Year – this would be very welcome and vital for the survival of some businesses.’

Meanwhile, a major spike in calls to the coronavirus helpline has prompted an appeal to Islanders not to call the Covid-19 helpline with queries about whether they are direct contacts of a positive case.

Across the first three days of December, the helpline received an average of 2,533 daily calls – more than three times the November average of 802 and well beyond the figures for October (492 per day) and September (535).

The government has assured those who believe they may have been in contact with a positive case that they will be contacted within 48 hours.

‘If you believe you are a direct contact, please go home, isolate, stay safe and wait for the contact-tracing team to call you,’ a spokesperson said. ‘If you have been told that you’re a direct contact but you don’t yet have your test appointments, please stay in isolation and wait for the contact-tracing team to call you.’

Although test results are currently being turned around in an average of ten hours, people who have been tested are being asked to wait 48 hours before calling to chase their result.

It is hoped that this week may see the first supply of Covid-19 vaccines arrive in Jersey, with the government confirming that the Island is planning to take delivery ‘shortly after’ the UK.

‘We have prepared extensively to begin vaccinations as soon as the vaccine is available to us and have measures in place to provide information, care and support to all those eligible for vaccination,’ a spokesperson said.

Specialist transport arrangements and storage facilities will be utilised for doses of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine, which must be stored at -70°C.

The vaccine will be administered in priority order, starting with care home residents, staff who provide care in domestic settings or care homes and the over-80s.

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