Council staff volunteer to call eligible businesses yet to claim COVID-19 grants

Income

A team of 20 Thanet council staff have volunteered to call hundreds of businesses that have yet to apply for COVID-19 Business grants.

The staff are from a number of different departments, who will fit calls in between their other work. Additional resources have also been brought into the Business Rates team to assist with any increase in enquiries.

Cllr Rob Yates, Cabinet Member for Finance said: “COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on the Thanet economy. We reacted quickly and have successfully delivered over £25m of funding to 2,318 businesses, which is 77% of all those eligible.

“According to the latest government figures, we have paid out the highest number of grants in Kent. This goes to show how seriously we have taken the issue and a huge thank you to all those involved who helped make this happen.

“In order to ensure that everyone entitled to a grant receives one, we have taken the further step of reaching out directly to these businesses. If for some reason you do not hear from us, or you want to check your eligibility, then do not struggle in silence and please get in touch. We want to ensure that all the businesses in Thanet are in the best possible position for the recovery.”

Some of the council staff who have volunteered to make the calls

Eligible businesses can apply for the emergency funding online at thanet.gov.uk/cash-grants-for-businesses

The council has also removed £20.7m of business rates from over 1,000 retail, hospitality and leisure businesses. Revised ‘Zero’ bills detailing a 12-month payment holiday for this financial year were sent on March 27.

The business section of the council’s website has details of further government schemes and initiatives businesses may be able to access and what support is available.

This includes signposting businesses to national schemes introduced by the Chancellor on March 20, including the British Business Bank loans of up to £5 million, the commitment to cover 80% of retained workers’ salaries to stop job losses and delays to VAT payments. It also includes details of the Kent and Medway Growth Hub support line for businesses.

Risk of fraud

At the current time, there is an increased risk of fraud. This includes risks that someone may impersonate the council either to commit fraud against a business or to gain information allowing them to submit an application for a business grant.

The council advises:

Check the email address of the sender. Don’t click on or download anything you don’t trust – for example, if you get an email from a company with a strange email address.

You may be contacted by someone offering to fill out the form for the business rate grant on your behalf.  Please don’t accept any offer to do this, even if they say they work for the Council.

Do not reveal personal details, business rates account number or bank details to anyone you are not sure of.

If you are still unsure please contact the Business Rates Team,  [email protected]

If Thanet District Council contact you they will be calling from a Thanet District Council phone line. The customer can request that they take the callers direct dial and call back that way. They can also choose to call the switchboard number (01843 577000) which will put them through to someone dealing specifically with business support grants.

They will not ask you to provide bank details at any point on the call and they will direct you to the online form to complete if you would prefer.

6 Comments

  1. Does this apply to catering businesses that are doing take away and delivery. Only the ones that are totally closed and get no income should get help there are a few in Margate still open.

  2. How will the council decide if such businesses still trading are entitled to grants or not? There will be many that are either partially open such as restaurants doing takeaway business, phone shops still trading with shutters half down or even the car washing premises to name just a few. There should be checks put in place to stop fraudulent claims.

  3. My understanding of the word “volunteer” means to do something free of charge.

    The article says they will “fit in calls between their other work”.

    That tells me it is being done as part of the normal working day for which they are still being paid.

    So it is not volunteering – it is covered by their contract of employment which has the rider ” . . and any other duties that may reasonably be required commensurate with the pay grade . . .” or similar I am sure.

    • I think it is very generous of TDC office staff volunteering to take on these extra duties. When you considerer, that 95% of the office staff at Cecil Sq. were one of the first group of people that started to work from home. It must be very hard to make phone calls, and emails to the businesses while you are watching This Morning and Tenable or walking your dog. At least it shows they do not need 3 million for a new office, if they can work from home without impact to services.

  4. Whilst the help provided is welcome the proclamation that TDC are somehow ahead of the rest of Kent is very misleading. They have more businesses and have therefore been given more money to dish out than the rest of Kent.

    The right aspect to focus on is whether TDC have paid out a higher percentage of the funds they have been given compared to the rest of Kent and a simple look at the figures reveals this just isn’t the case. In fact they are in the bottom half. Were you told that Cllr Yates?

    So, please keep pushing the grants to businesses in need but please let up on the “best in Kent” rhetoric as it isn’t true and simply isn’t necessary.

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