Sheffield MP Paul Blomfield calls for financial support to help firms survive omicron

A Sheffield MP is demanding the return of financial support for businesses threatened with closure due to the ‘phenomenal’ spread of the omicron variant.

Paul Blomfield, MP for Sheffield Central, said the reintroduction of work-from-home guidance and other restrictions would reduce footfall in city centres and see Christmas parties and other social events cancelled.

In a government press conference chief medical officer Chris Whitty spoke of the ’phenomenal’ spread of the variant and urged people to ‘prioritise’ social interactions in the run-up to Christmas.

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Paul Blomfield, MP for Sheffield Central, said the reintroduction of work from home guidance and other restrictions would reduce footfall in city centres and see Christmas parties and other social events cancelled.

Earlier this week, The Star reported that hospitality was in a worse position now that any time in the pandemic due to the lack of government safety net.

Now, Mr Blomfield has written to Chancelor Rishi Sunak calling for financial support for businesses ‘to ensure that they continue to survive this latest stage of the pandemic’.

He says it is ‘vital’ that sick pay is bolstered so it is available to all workers, including those on ‘precarious contracts’. Some 2m workers aren't eligible for sick pay including a third of those on zero hours contracts, he states. And seven in 10 are women.

He wrote: ‘As you know, the UK has the least generous statutory sick pay in Europe at £96.35 a week, and it is only available to employees earning £120-a-week or more - this is insufficient to stop the spread of Covid-19 as those who are financially vulnerable may feel they have to keep working and not isolate even if they test positive’.

Mr Blomfield has written to Chancelor Rishi Sunak, pictured, calling for financial support for businesses ‘to ensure that they continue to survive this latest stage of the pandemic’.

A Treasury spokesman said: “We have acted early to help control the virus’s spread - while avoiding damaging economic and social restrictions by allowing businesses to remain open.

“To continue to protect the NHS, as well as jobs and livelihoods across the country, our priority is to ensure everyone who is eligible gets their booster jabs as quickly as possible.

“Our £400bn COVID-19 support package will continue to help businesses into spring next year and we will continue to respond proportionately to the changing path of the virus, as we have done since the start of the pandemic.”

Statutory sick pay is payable from the first day of work missed and is available to those who are self-isolating because of coronavirus, he added. Those not eligible may be able to claim welfare benefits (Universal Credit or New Style Employment Support Allowance).

People told to self-isolate could be entitled to £500 their local authority through the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme.

The Recovery Loan Scheme is in place until June 2022, meaning businesses will continue to benefit from Government-guaranteed finance – providing a 70 per cent guarantee to lenders.

A moratorium on business evictions is in place until March 2022.

Where applicable, businesses can continue to apply for the Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) scheme through their local authority, which is open until March 2022.

Business rates relief for eligible retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England is available until March 2022, and hospitality and tourism businesses will continue to get a VAT reduction – paying only 12.5 per cent until March 2022.

Meanwhile, the £2 billion Culture Recovery Fund and Sports Recovery Package and the Film and TV Production Restart Scheme were in place until 30 April 2022.

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