Stimulus fund recognises importance of rural businesses, says UFU.
The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) says the £1.7m stimulus fund that has been launched to help rural and micro businesses with less than 10 employees expand, innovate, and sustain rural communities, will provide necessary support and a much-need boost during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Applications opened yesterday (3 August), following the announcement made by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Minister Edwin Poots MLA last week.
The allocation of funding recognises the consistent, hard work of small rural businesses since the lockdown began and the struggles they are facing due to the economic impact of the virus.
UFU deputy president David Brown said: “Rural businesses have always been an important part of our local communities, but this has been emphasised much more since COVID-19 hit Northern Ireland.
“The £1.7m stimulus fund will help sustain businesses as the NI economy manages the economic impact of the virus, giving them the option to expand and develop, offering an improved service that meets the needs of consumers in the area.
“In return, this will encourage the local community to continue supporting local businesses.”
A sum of £1m has been granted to the Rural Micro Business Growth Pilot Scheme and £700,000 for the Rural Business Development Grant Scheme.
Mr Brown added: “I would encourage eligible rural businesses to look into both schemes and see what is available to them if they are eligible and how it could work for their business.
“The Rural Micro Business Growth Scheme enables existing micro businesses to apply for a grant worth up to £40,000 to invest in innovation and new technologies to improve efficiency and productivity. It will also support new business start-ups that bring new products or services to the market.
“The Rural Business Development Grant will provide rural micro enterprises with grants worth up to £4,999 to help them manage and recover from the impact of COVID-19 while also enabling them to develop.
“While farm businesses are not eligible for these schemes, both schemes will be beneficial to small rural businesses including some farms that have diversified across Northern Ireland, providing a much-needed assistance for some. I urge members who may be eligible to grasp this opportunity and investigate the schemes further,” said the UFU deputy president.
The application process is competitive, and all awarded grants will be determined on the base of merit. Please note that you can only apply for a grant from either the Rural Micro Business Growth Scheme or the Rural Business Development Grant Scheme.
The deadline to apply to the Rural Business Development Grant Scheme is 12 noon on Friday 11 September 2020, expressions of interest for The Rural Micro Business Growth Scheme must be submitted by the 31 August 2020.
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