The Federation of Small Businesses in Wales has called for a fund to help businesses affected by the pandemic to be reopened.
The £100 million development fund of the Welsh Government’s wider £300m Economic Resilience Fund (ERF) opened for applications on Wednesday, October 28, but closed a little more than a day later.
The Welsh Government said it received 5,500 applications and closed the fund. It has since said it is thinking about reopening it.
Ben Francis, FSB Wales Policy Chair, said: “The funding provided under this scheme is vital for firms that need to adapt to a very different economic landscape than that of only a year ago, and we would urge Welsh Government to reopen this scheme.
We know only too well the desperate disappointment and anxiety faced by some of our members caused by the abrupt and unexpected closure of the fund.
“We would also ask that Welsh Government review the application process for this fund. Too many businesses found the system difficult and confusing to navigate and that there were additional requirements added at a later date which businesses could not have foreseen.”
The Welsh Conservatives have claimed the First Minister is letting down businesses in Wales.
Its leader, Senedd Member Paul Davies, said: “For all his rhetoric and enthusiasm for announcing the end of the 17-day national lockdown, it’s as if he has conveniently forgotten that for some areas of Wales, it’s actually the relaxation of a five-week lockdown, not just a fortnight.
“However, I was pleased to hear that the First Minister has said he will now look at whether there is scope to re-open elements of the ERF that have been closed.
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“Businesses need clarity and need support. It’s absolutely critical that the Labour administration provides both.”
Speaking in the Senedd after being questioned by Mr Davies, First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “The £200 million lockdown business fund element remains open and is still taking applications.
“It is true that one strand in the fund received a very large number of applications very rapidly.
“We will look to see whether there is any further possibility of reopening that aspect of the fund, and, as I said to Paul Davies, we’ll be immensely helped in that when the Treasury is able to tell us the consequential funding that will come to Wales as a result of the help that has already been guaranteed to businesses in England.”
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