How to Find Financial Relief for Your Business Amidst COVID-19

By Jasmine Glasheen and Francesca Nicasio

Coronavirus is sweeping the globe, leading to government-mandated retail shutdowns the likes of which we have never seen. The economic downturn has begun, and each retailers’ ability to survive depends on how quickly they can alter their business strategy and supply chain to accommodate quarantined consumers’ quickly evolving needs. This is a difficult time to be an SMB owner––especially if your products are deemed “non-essential,” which so many are right now.

Fortunately, governments all around the world, as well as various independent brands, social media platforms, and large corporations, are rushing to create programs to help small businesses stay afloat financially during these turbulent times. Below is a list of relief programs and initiatives that you can take advantage of to help your retail business weather the storm. 

These programs are grouped according to the following regions:

Global / Multiple Countries

Facebook Small Business Grants Program

Facebook stepped up to the plate to help small businesses, and the company is doing this in a big way, offering $100M in cash grants and ad credits for up to 30,000 small businesses in more than 30 countries that use Facebook. 

Facebook will give grants to help businessowners keep their workforce going strong, pay rent, connect with customers, and cover operational costs during these turbulent times. Want to give it a shot? Here’s the link to apply for Facebook’s Small Business Grants Program

Bumble, for Business

Bumble, the networking-slash-dating app recently announced that it will be giving up to $5,000 in monetary support to small businesses who are struggling because of COVID-19. To apply, business owners just need to download the Bumble app and match with the Bumble Community Grants profile.

The initiative is available to businesses in the US, UK, Canada, India, Australia, Germany, Mexico, and France.


Disaster Relief Loans from the SBA

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has created two small business assistance loans, as well as a wealth of additional resources, to help SMBs survive lockdown. Here’s what you need to know about them.

Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program: The SBA is working with state governors to provide low-interest loans of up to $2 million for SMBs and non-profits that are severely impacted by the pandemic and resulting store closures. Here’s the official link to apply.  

SBA Express Bridge Loans: Small businesses that already work with the SBA can quickly access up to $25,000 in loans to cover temporary losses in revenue while you file paperwork for an economic injury disaster loan. Express bridge loans provide more instant revenue, but they may need to be repaid once your economic injury disaster loan comes in with the proceeds from it. Here’s the official link

Coronavirus Tax Relief from the Internal Revenue Service

The IRS is hustling to find ways to help small businesses stay open during the coronavirus pandemic. The tax filing deadline has been postponed from April 15th to July 15th, which is cool. There’s also a $2 trillion economic stimulus package that was passed last week and would delay half of companies’ payroll taxes. 

You can stay updated on what’s happening/being offered here on the IRS’s official coronavirus page. 

Employer Tax Credit

The IRS is a double winner on this one. They’ve come together with the Treasury and Labor departments to offer employers 100% reimbursement for up to up to 80 hours of paid sick leave (at 2/3 of the employee’s regular rate of pay).  They’re also offering paid childcare leave in cases when employees’ kids’ schools are closed, or their childcare providers aren’t available. 

In cases when an employee can’t work because of Coronavirus quarantine, you can receive a refundable sick leave credit at the employee’s regular rate of pay, up to $511 per day and $5,110 total, for 10 days. There are similar credits available for self-employed workers, so check out the official IRS website to see if your business qualifies

Deferred Evictions 

Many state legislators have already put initiatives in place to defer evictions. While, as of now, most initiatives are focused on residential renters, the Federal Housing Finance Agency is offering forbearance of up to 12 months for borrowers impacted by coronavirus. 

Additionally, private banks such as Bank of America, Citibank, Wells Fargo, and Quicken loans are offering deferment or hardship programs to renters impacted by COVID-19. There are also programs being put in place for landlords, and statewide mortgage relief programs are in development. 

Deferred Utility Suspensions

Utility companies are also heeding the call to give retailers a break during the pandemic––suspending service disconnections, waving late fees, even providing free WiFi and data to households with school-age children, or those that are otherwise impacted by the COVID crisis. Each individual service provider is doing its own thing in response to the pandemic, but USA Today provides a comprehensive list of what individual service providers are offering here. 

Main Street Initiative (by Mainvest)

Facebook isn’t the only big business on the block that’s going out of their way to support SMBs during the COVID pandemic. Mainvest recently launched the Main Street Initiative, which allows businesses affected by coronavirus to qualify for an immediate, interest-free $2,000 loan when they launch a capital raise on the platform. Your individual business can then also raise up to $100,000 in funds from your community through Mainvest to help you stay open during this turbulent time. 


Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme 

This is a temporary scheme that’s available to all UK employers for 3 months beginning on the 1st of March 2020. As an employer, you can claim for 80% of furloughed workers’ usual wage costs, for up to £2,500 a month, including Employe National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrollment employer pension contributions. The program is available to all UK employers that created and started a PAYE payroll scheme on the 28th of February 2020.

Here’s how to claim for wage costs under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Deferred VAT Payments

The UK government is deferring Value Added Tax (VAT) payments for 3 months. UK VAT registered businesses that have a payment due from the 20th of March to the 30th of June have the option to either pay the VAT as normal or defer it to a later date. 

Deferred Self-Assessment Payments On Account

If the COVID-19 pandemic has affected your ability to pay a self-assessment payment by the 31st of July, you’re allowed to defer the payment until January 2021

The scheme doesn’t require any applications, and penalties and interest charges will be waived until the 31st of January 2021.

Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS)

If you’ve lost income because of COVID-19, you can claim a taxable grant worth 80% of your trading profits, with a maximum of $2,500 a month of the next 3 months. Here’s how to claim a grant through SEISS.

Support of Businesses Paying Sick Pay to Employees

According to the UK government, it “will bring forward legislation to allow small-and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19.”

The scheme’s eligibility criteria include coverage of up two 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who is unable to work because of the coronavirus and businesses that employ fewer than 250 employees as of the 28th of February. 

Note: As of the time of writing this, the rebate scheme is still being developed. 

Support for Retail, Hospitality, and Leisure Businesses that Pay Business Rates

The UK is also “planning to introduce a business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England for the 2020 to 2021 tax year.”

Your business will qualify for the scheme if: 

  • your business is in England 
  • your business is within the retail, hospitality, and/or leisure sector. 

Learn more by viewing the expanded retail discount guidance

Cash Grants for Retail, Hospitality, and Leisure Businesses that Pay Business Rates

If you operate within the retail, hospitality, and leisure sectors, you may get a cash grant of up to £25,000 per property. 

If you have a property that has a rateable value of up to £15,000 may be eligible for a grant of £10,000. 

If your business has a property with a rateable value of over £15,000 and less than £51,000 you may be eligible for a grant of £25,000.

For more information, turn to your local authority


New JobKeeper Payment 

If your business is affected by COVID-19 and you’ve had your turnover reduced by over 30%, you may qualify for a government subsidy to continue paying your staff. You can claim a fortnightly payment of $1,500 per eligible employee from 30 March, 2020, for a period of 6 months, max.  

WA Government Small Business Stimulus/Relief Package

To alleviate the financial strain that small businesses are facing during the coronavirus pandemic, the Western Australian Government announced a small business relief package that includes:

  • $17,500 grants for small businesses with a payroll between $1 million and $4 million.
  • The $1 million payroll tax threshold (announced in October 2019) will be brought forward by six months to 1 July 2020.
  • The WA Government will waive rental payments for small businesses and not-for-profit groups in State Government-owned buildings for six months.

As well as the following measures announced on 31 March 2020:

  • One-off $2,500 credit on electricity bills for small businesses that consume less than 50MWh per annum.
  • Power and water disconnections will not occur and interest will not be charged on deferred payments until 30 September for small businesses facing financial difficulty due to COVID-19.
  • Payroll tax will be waived for four months for businesses with annual wages under $7.5 million (NB: this replaces the previous payroll deferral measure which was announced).
  • Affected businesses can apply for interest free payment arrangements and for late payment penalties to be waved for a range of taxes and duties, including payroll tax, transfer duty, landholder duty, vehicle licence duty or land tax.
  • A range of business licence fees have been waived, including liquor licence renewal fees for 2020, which will be waived and refunds given to businesses that have already paid.

SME Guarantee Scheme

SME lenders will get a guarantee of 50% from the Government for new unsecured loans used for the working capital of small and medium businesses. If your business has a turnover of up to $50 million, you may be eligible for these loans, up to $250,000 per borrower. The length of these loans is up to 3 years, with an initial 6 month repayment holiday.

Temporary Moratorium on Evictions

According to the Small Business Development Corporation, “On 29 March 2020, the National Cabinet agreed to a temporary moratorium on evictions over the next six months for commercial and residential tenancies in financial distress who are unable to meet their commitments due to the impact of coronavirus.” 

View the National Cabinet Statement here

Small Business Relief Package by the Australian Banking Association

If you have a small business loan from your bank, the Australian Banking Association (ABA) announced that banks will defer payments for affected small businesses for 6 months

According to the annoucement, “the threshold for total business loan facilities that could be deferred would be raised from $3 million to up to $10 million.”

Victoria – Business Support Fund

The Victorian Government recently unveiled the $500 million Business Support Fund for small businesses impacted by the coronavirus. The potential value of the grant is up to $10,000 per business and is available for companies that:

Melbourne – COVID-19 Business Grants

In response to COVID-19, the city of Melbourne is offering $5 million in grants to small and medium businesses “to invest in online and e-commerce capabilities, take part in training and professional development, and undertake capital works.”

According to the city’s website, the grants include: 

  • Up to $5000 for investing in online and e-commerce activities. 
  • Up to $2000 for training and professional development. 
  • Up to $10,000 for capital works projects (matching dollar-for-dollar) to adapt to changing conditions.

New Zealand

COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme 

The wage subsidy scheme is available to employers that have seen a 30% revenue drop due to the coronavirus. The scheme offers subsidies for any named employees and the rates are as follows:

  • $585.80 (gross) per week for full-time employees, where full-time is 20 hours or more per week 
  • $350 (gross) per week for part-time employees, where part-time is less than 20 hours per week

Business Finance Support Package

The New Zealand Government, the Reserve Bank, and retail banks are providing a financial support package for businesses, which includes a 6 month principal and interest payment holiday for mortgage holders and small to medium sized businesses whose incomes have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tax Relief and Income Assistance

The government is offering a range of tax relief options for businesses, including leave subsidies, support for families, write-offs, and more. 

According to the Inland Revenue website:

If your business is unable to pay its taxes on time due to the impact of COVID-19, we understand – you don’t need to contact us right now. Get in touch with us when you can, and we’ll write-off any penalties and interest. However, it will help if you continue to file. This information is used to make correct payments to people and to help the Government respond to what is happening in the economy.

Final Thoughts

Nobody said running a business would be easy, but during times like these, it can feel all but impossible. If you’ve been struggling to keep your business afloat, or you’re afraid of the trickle-down impact that coronavirus shutdown mandates will have on your company in the future, follow the links provided above to see if you’re eligible for SMB loans, freebies, deferments, grants, or additional resources. 

We’re in the midst of a burgeoning global health pandemic and a lot is still unknown. However, governments and independent agencies are rallying to help businesses like yours stay afloat during the crisis. New relief initiatives are being proposed each day. If you, like so many other small business owners, find yourself struggling to hold your company together during the COVID pandemic, do your research before you throw in the towel. And if there’s anything we at Vend can do to help, please reach out and let us know how we can be of service!

About Francesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.