On Tuesday the application process for SME Restart and Recovery Grants was overwhelmed by demand and the website buckled under the strain. We’re really sorry about this and know that many people were frustrated by being unable to apply. We immediately suspended applications while the issue was dealt with and we’d now like to update you in terms of our decision-making.
The initial technical solution was to open the application process to those certifying themselves eligible on a given date at a given time. When the call for applications opened, over 150,000 requests were made to the Expression of Interest form. This demonstrated that demand far exceeded availability for the 250 grants available and the system couldn’t cope.
Reflecting on the level of demand from the business community and the resulting impact on the North East Growth Hub website, it is clear the process we implemented wasn’t right.
We are sorry that this caused additional stress at what is already a challenging time for businesses in our region.
We have spent the last 48 hours looking at appropriate alternative options, speaking to those impacted and reading the comments of those who interacted with us on social media. By far, the most favoured solution is to introduce a ballot system. This means that all eligible businesses will have the equal chance of receiving funding by completing an expression of interest form, with successful candidates chosen by random selection.
Ballots will run at a Local Authority level so that we can fulfil the geographical requirements of the funding. We have shared below when each Local Authority call for applications will take place.
Demand for the grants vastly outstrips availability with only around 650 businesses receiving support against a 150,000-business population. We really want this funding to go to the companies who need it most so we’re asking everyone to re-read the eligibility guidelines, ensure they meet the criteria and can evidence a 20% decline in turnover due to COVID-19 from 17 March 2020 to date, compared to the same period last year.
Please be aware that while limited grants for the purchase of small equipment were available, these were fully allocated in previous application rounds and for that reason we can now only offer revenue funding to businesses.
We have very much appreciated people’s time and feedback as we have worked to get this right and would like to thank everyone once again for their patience as we implement this revised solution
We know that lots of businesses need help right now and that this funding can only help a small number of you. Please be assured that we continue to feedback to Government the level of demand and to lobby for more support on your behalf.
Applications by Local Authorities:
Opens: Friday 25 September, 12noon.
Closes: Saturday 26 September, 23:59.
Opens: Monday 28 September, 12noon.
Closes: Tuesday 29 September, 23:59
Opens: Wednesday 30 September, 12noon.
Closes: Thursday 01 October, 23:59.
Opens: Friday 02 October, 12noon.
Closes: Saturday 03 October, 23:59.
Opens: Monday 05 October, 12noon.
Closes: Tuesday 06 October, 23:59.
Opens: Wednesday 07 October, 12noon.
Closes: Thursday 08 October, 23:59.
Opens: Friday 09 October, 12noon.
Closes: Saturday 10 October, 23:59
Durham (second round, if required)
Opens: Monday 12 October, 12noon.
Closes: Tuesday 13 October, 23:59
Find out more here.