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It’s safe to say that 2020 has been one of the most challenging years in wedding industry history thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses have had postponements and cancellations from couples to deal with – although thankfully 95% of couples do not plan to cancel – as well as moving goalposts from the government.

The good news is, it’s not all doom and gloom. The government have set up a number of grants, schemes and loans to help everyone from self-employed makeup artists and musicians, to venues and small limited companies.

To help you make sense of what’s on offer, understand the next steps and manage your money effectively, we spoke to Jasmine Birtles, Founder of MoneyMagpie.com, who gave us the lowdown on what you can claim. Read on to find out exactly what you should be applying for.

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Government Help Available for the Self-Employed

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The government has announced a third Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) that will open in November. According to gov.uk, the grant will be paid in two lump sum instalments, with the first covering 1st November 2020 to 31 January 2021 and covering 55% of average monthly trading profits, capped at £5,160 in total. The second instalment, covering 1st February to 30th April 2021, is yet to be set.

“Unfortunately, if you weren't eligible for the first two grants, you can't apply for this one either. That means many are still excluded,” warns Jasmine. “There is also going to be a fourth SEISS grant available next year, though how much and who can apply is yet to be announced.”

Jasmine suggests that non-eligible self-employed workers instead turn to their local authorities who are also offering help. “These are much smaller micro grants, usually around £1,000, but it's better than nothing! Look at your local council's website for more information.”

Finally, Jasmine suggests checking out online resource Turn2Us: “Use Turn2Us's grant finder and benefits calculator to make sure you're not missing out on free money. Lots of charities have new COVID support funds, such as the Arts Council (e.g. a makeup artist or wedding band are likely to receive funding from this type of grant scheme)."

If you’re struggling to find a scheme or grant that you’re eligible for, then you can apply for Universal Credit.

“Even if you weren't previously eligible for Universal Credit, if you've been living off your savings since lockdown started, it's well worth applying again,” says Jasmine. “There's a five week wait for the money but if you're in dire need you can take an advance. The advance must be paid back - that means it's taken off your future UC payments in instalments.”

We know that many of you are extremely keen to continue working and the good news is you can still do so while claiming Universal Credit.

“You CAN still work if you're on Universal Credit and self-employed," says Jasmine. "There's no minimum or maximum hour limit, either. Instead, you report your income and expenses to UC every month, and your UC payment is adjusted to reflect this.”

Jasmine suggests looking at new ways to utilise your skills such as giving online tutorials or selling your photographs to stock websites or publications as well as exploring the corporate world.

“Consider crossing over to the corporate world - at least temporarily - as businesses are using this time to bump up their marketing efforts. That means there's more need for photographers, interior designers, and similar roles that you can use your transferable skills to increase your income. Event managers would be great at moving their skills online and becoming online webinar producers/managers for all the new online events happening.”

Next Steps

  • Keep an eye on the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme Grant Extension page on the government website for updates on when you can apply. 
  • Visit your local authority website and check the support they have available for self-employed workers. 
  • Visit the Turn2Us grant finder and benefits calculator to find out if you're entitled to more support. 
  • Apply for Universal Credit if you need to. 
  • Visit places like Shepper or Fiverr and offer your services to generate additional income. 
  • Visit the Arts Council website, if applicable, and apply for financial aid. 

Government Help Available for Small Limited Companies

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One of the key issues small limited companies face this year is retaining and continuing to pay workers. Jasmine suggests taking advantage of the newly extended furlough scheme which will see the government pay 80% - or up to £2,500 - of each employees' salary for hours not worked until December. Employers will only need to pay pension and national insurance contributions. If needed, workers are welcome to come back part-time and be furloughed for the rest of their hours. 

In addition to this, the government will be distributing funds to local authorities in order to help businesses in England forced to close due to the restrictions. Gov.uk states: "Business premises forced to close in England are to receive grants worth up to £3,000 per month under the Local Restrictions Support Grant. Also, £1.1bn is being given to Local Authorities, distributed on the basis of £20 per head, for one-off payments to enable them to support businesses more broadly."

There are also two loan schemes available for small to medium-sized businesses: “Corporate loans such as the Bounce Back Loan scheme have had their terms extended to help make repayments easier. You can borrow from £2,000 up to 25% of your turnover, and it's 100% guaranteed by the government (if you can't repay it), no fees or interest for 12 months, then 2.5% a year interest,” says Jasmine. The maximum loan available on this scheme is £50,000. 

"The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme is a similar loan, with 80% guaranteed by the government and you can borrow up to £5million. Again, no fees for 12 months," says Jasmine, who also suggests delaying your VAT payments on account. 

For further information, Jasmine suggests using the Government Business Support Finder to check what's available for your specific circumstances.

Finally, if you're struggling to get the financial support you need and you're worried about the future, it's worth putting in a call to your bank who may be able to help you through a difficult period. 

Next Steps

Government Help Available for Wedding Venues

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Stratton Court Barn

Venues can also apply for the Bounce Back Loan Scheme and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme as well as the furlough scheme for workers. 

Jasmine suggests turning to your local authority for further help: “Apply to your local authority for business rates reduction or 100% discounts, as well as additional grants. Keep a close eye on your local authority website for announcements and help applying for grants.”

If your venue is also used for other things such as community events or the arts, Jasmine also suggests applying for grants from the National Lottery or the Arts Council.

Next Steps

Jasmine's Top Money Tips for Wedding Businesses

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1. “Remember that grants are taxable, so you need to report it on your next Self Assessment and it could mean you pay more tax next year.” 

2. “Try not to borrow money wherever possible unless you are very confident it can be repaid.” 

3. “For sole traders and single limited contractors, consider a zero-interest credit card for business expenses instead of opting for loans. It does need repaying, but you could save a lot in interest fees.” 

4. “Consider using job schemes where possible because losing staff now could increase your hiring costs when things fully reopen.” 

5. “Negotiate with suppliers to see if you can defer payments or agree a fixed contract for 2021 to guarantee future work (and use deposits paid this year for re-bookings next year).”

6. “Don't be afraid of spending money to continue your marketing efforts at this point in time. People will still need your wedding services in the coming year so don't fall off the edge of the earth - keep your brand presence now to make sure you're at the forefront of people's minds for bookings!” 

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