17 May 2021

Deadline fast approaching for Discretionary Business Fund applications

Aberdeenshire Council is reminding North east firms that its Phase 2 Discretionary Business Fund is only open for applications for financial aid until May 21st.

The fund has provided additional support for businesses with the aim of mitigating the short-term financial challenges being experienced by businesses and to-date has paid out sums to businesses totalling more than £2.2 million. 

Combined with additional funding packages, it brings the total level of financial aid paid out by Aberdeenshire Council to £83.6 million.

The impressive figures were discussed by Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee which met last week, where they provided a snapshot of the level of support provided to firms during the Covid emergency through funding, ongoing town centre regeneration initiatives, employability advice and retail support schemes.

Launched in January this year by the Scottish Government, the aim of the Discretionary Business Fund is to mitigate the short-term financial challenges being experienced by firms adversely impacted by restrictions and regulations introduced since October 2020 to control the spread of Covid-19.

The fund will be issued on a first come, first served basis and grants are expected to be paid within 10 days of receipt of fully completed application forms and supporting documentation.

The discretionary fund in phase one provided a one-off payment of £2,000 to successful applicants. It’s not a loan and does not have to be repaid, but you must evidence a 30% reduction in sales owing to the impact of Covid-19.  Phase 2 of the scheme will provide enhanced grants to existing DBF recipients and also extend eligibility to business types which were previously excluded.

Cllr Peter Argyle, chair of the council’s Infrastructure Services Committee, said: “I am hugely proud of the outstanding level of financial support which we as a council have provided to the business sector both through our own schemes and those funded by the Scottish Government.

“Without question, this has been the most challenging time imaginable for our business community and it is hard to imagine just how hard it has been for them. These funds have been a vital source of financial support for North-east businesses, many of which continue to face massive challenges on a day-to-day basis.

“On behalf of Aberdeenshire Council I want to thank all those officers from our Economic Development and Finance teams who have worked tirelessly over many months to process the thousands of funding applications we have received to get the funding out quickly to support our business community.”

Vice-chair Cllr John Cox added: “Through these funds, Aberdeenshire Council has managed to provide crucial financial support and through employability and bespoke funding packages it has provided guidance, training and cash support for individuals, businesses and town centres to help them overcome the challenges presented by Covid.

“The Discretionary Business Fund is an important source of vital financial support for North-east businesses which continue to face massive challenges. But we are aware that many local firms could be missing out on this money available to them. With the deadline fast approaching, I would encourage all businesses who meet the criteria to submit their applications now.”

To check if you qualify, visit: https://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/business/business-covid-19/covid-19-discretionary-business-fund/ 

If you wish to submit an application, please email discretionaryfund@aberdeenshire.gov.uk 

Case study 1: Wholehearted (Fraserburgh)

Wholehearted - a scoop and weigh wholefoods refillery based in Fraserburgh – opened its doors in July 2020 amid a global pandemic. The business was not eligible for a grant from the Discretionary Business Fund under phase one as a new start, however with the extended eligibility it was approved for a grant of £2,000 in phase two. 
As co-founder of Wholehearted, Megan Scott knew it would be challenging starting a business when she did, but the extensive ongoing Covid-19 restrictions imposed across the region has meant that the business has faced a real struggle. The rule for only having two people in the shop at any one time has been particularly difficult, as people are not keen to queue outside in the cold North-east weather. 
Megan says the financial support from the Discretionary Business Fund has provided the new-start business with a bit of “immediate financial breathing space”. 
She explains: “That money had been set aside for a chill unit and the additional finance will mean that we can actually afford to stock the unit and allow a bigger offering to our customers. It is unfortunate, but Wholehearted has not really had a chance to thrive, as yet.
“Hopefully, with the gradual easing of the restrictions and the opportunity of some better summer weather, our business will be able to improve and flourish with the additional bit of investment”.

Case study 2: Alford Breakfast & Out of School Club

Hosting up to a maximum of 35 children at any one time, Alford Breakfast and Out of School Club is a childcare business for school age children aged between 4 to 12 years who attend Alford Primary School and surrounding catchment area.
It was awarded £2,000 under phase one of the Discretionary Business Fund and received an enhanced grant of £8,000 in phase two.
During the Covid-19 business restrictions, many parents were working from home resulting in the number of children attending the club reducing significantly. Parents of non-attending children did not pay any childcare fees, but the overheads of the business still had to be met each month. 
Barring a very small cleaning grant, the community-based childcare club did not receive any previous financial support. Aberdeenshire Council’s Discretionary Business Fund directly supported the business to remain open and operational and to continue employing two members of staff while two others were retained on furlough. 
Nursery owner Tanya Tough explains: “All of our staff are valued members of the team and the lifeline of financial support from Aberdeenshire Council has allowed us to maintain local employment, while at the same time continuing to provide a valuable service to our community.”
As a secondary advantage, the club has also been able to buy some additional new resources for the benefit of the children attending Alford Breakfast and Out of School Club.