Covid-19 aid repayments ‘forcing small firms to fold’

- Advertisement -

SOME small firms are being forced out of business due to the government demanding repayments at short notice of money granted through a scheme designed to protect jobs during the pandemic, the founder of a small business group has said.

Beverley Le Cuirot, who founded the Small Business in Jersey group, said that some had ‘folded from the pressure’ after receiving final repayment orders on overpayments made as part of the co-funded payroll scheme, which subsidised wages for hard-hit businesses during the height of the Covid-19 crisis.

The JEP revealed exclusively earlier this year that around 270 self-employed people had received letters demanding repayments totalling up to £1.9 million – paid out under the scheme.

Now, the government has emailed several business owners asking for thousands of pounds in repayment within two weeks.

One business owner said that he had been left ‘all over the place mentally’ while another criticised the lack of communication for nine months before the invoice was sent.

Last month the Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel published its report on the scheme and found that communication on the guidelines was ‘misunderstood’, which has led to cases where those who were meant to benefit are now in repayment debt to the government, despite providing information in ‘good faith’.

Mrs Le Cuirot said there had been a ‘considerable amount of confusion’ surrounding the government guidelines for the scheme, which led to a number of issues.

‘Two years later this has resulted in final demands being received unexpectedly by small-business owners, the majority of whom believed they had made correct and justifiable claims and yet the demands came with no warning or explanation and initially no opportunity to discuss the matter with government officials,’ she explained.

She said that the demand for final payments, after a number of businesses budgeted ‘carefully’ throughout the pandemic, had been ‘too much of a shock to bear’.

She added: ‘Some have folded from the pressure, given up the leases on their premises, or closed their businesses entirely as a result. It has caused a huge amount of additional stress for business owners on top of the long months of not knowing where the next client was coming from. At least one former business owner is now on safeguarding watch.

‘It is such a shame it has come to this, especially given the efforts of ministers to protect the lives, livelihoods and wellbeing of Islanders during the pandemic.The days are ticking for any change to be made by the current ministers and it may therefore fall to the next government to instigate a formalised appeal process which is transparent and fair to all. If this is rejected, the next and only course of action will be a judicial review.’

The JEP has requested a comment from the government but did not receive a response at the time of going to print.

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Latest Stories

- Advertisement -

UK News

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Read the latest free supplements

Read the Town Crier, Le Rocher and a whole host of other subjects like mortgage advice, business, cycling, travel and property.