'UNPRECEDENTED demand' has seen Cheshire businesses already snap up all the funds from a new £1.15 million grant.

Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) launched the grant programme to help small businesses meet some of the extra costs created by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Cheshire & Warrington Recovery & Restructure Grant offers grants of up to 80 per cent to a maximum of £5,000 (or up to 60 per cent on items purchased from May 1-July 23) to support eligible Cheshire & Warrington businesses adjust to the Covid-19 outbreak.

The grants were open to trading small and medium enterprises, social enterprises, charities or sole trader based in the Cheshire or Warrington LEP area. To be eligible, businesses need to have been trading for at least 12 months.

But a statement on the website to apply for grant funding said: "Due to unprecedented demand the C&W Recovery & Restructure Grant application portal is currently closed as we have committed our current allocation of funds.

"We are continuing to process the applications that we have received and will be in contact with all applicants and those on the waiting list shortly. "

The project is being managed by Blue Orchid Enterprise Solutions of behalf of the Cheshire & Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership.

Around 50 per cent of the funding is being directed towards the region’s hard-hit visitor economy, targeting tourism, hospitality and retail businesses with support. The balance will be paid to SMEs in the wider economy.

Examples of the support which will be provided includes:

  • IT equipment, e.g. Tablet & Contact payment systems, ICT equipment to support homeworking
  • Fixed PPE equipment e.g. plastics screens & sanitiser dispensers
  • Building alterations e.g. creation of one-way systems, building of outdoor seating, serving hatches etc.

Consultancy grants will help business to bring in external expertise to support their entry into new markets, engaging new customers or improving efficiency, for example through rebranding or promotional campaigns, market research or improving their online presence.

The grant cannot pay for day-to-day running costs, servicing debt or towards cash flow. Other Government programmes are available to help with these issues.

Clare Hayward MBE DL, Chair of Cheshire and Warrington LEP said: “We know all too well through the work our Business Growth Hub team is doing, supporting local businesses, just how tough it is out there.

"These are market conditions that no one has experienced before. We will continue to work tirelessly to help companies of every size get along the road to recovery.

"This round of small business grants has a big focus on the visitor economy and follows on from the £15.5 million of support we have secured from the government’s Getting Building Fund for key projects in Cheshire East, Chester West and Warrington.”

Some 50 per cent of the cash for the Restructure & Recovery Grant comes from the Growing Places Fund which the C&W LEP Board has approved the use of in the form of grants to small businesses to be invested in ways that will support businesses to re-open, operate and grow in a Covid-safe way.

While the current round of grant support has closed, businesses are urged to keep checking https://blueorchid.co.uk/cheshire-warrington-recovery-restructure-grant/ for future application windows.