Chamber survey: Unprecedented impact but some support now reaching firms

The seventh weekly Suffolk Chamber of Commerce survey into how its members are responding to the spread of the COVID-19 virus shows businesses across Suffolk are beginning to access government support but with some issues still being reported.

Now at an all-time high, 99% of respondents to Suffolk Chambers snap survey have said that they have been affected by Coronavirus/COVID-19, this is up 2% from last week and up 36% since week 1. Despite this wide ranging impact, businesses are now starting to see Government support in the form of grants, whilst others apply to the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.

The positive news is that the number of firms finding it easy to apply for schemes is increasing, up 25% on last week.

As a result, businesses across Suffolk are now beginning to see cash reach the ground, aided in particular by the local authorities paying out their share of the combined £213 million received from central government. Nevertheless, qualitative feedback from the survey indicates that businesses are still struggling to access the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme despite promises that the system would be made more agile in the response of earlier business concerns.

Comments from the business community have included “the bank is very slow with the loan”. “Everything has worked apart from the CBIL”, and “we’ve waited two weeks for acknowledgement on our CBILS application”.

The survey, conducted on Wednesday, April 22, over just a few hours, was completed by 123 Suffolk Chamber members of all sizes, market sectors and parts of the county.

Andy Walker, Suffolk Chamber’s Head of Policy said: “The banks are increasing the number of loans being provided to businesses which is welcome, but it’s clear that the process could still be made easier. Businesses are facing various challenges and the delay and difficulty of CBILS just adds to the stress of business owners, worried about how long they might already have left”.

With support now reaching businesses, the number of firms reporting the possible closure of the business has dipped from a high of 39% in week three, to 30% in week seven, whilst those worried about lost income has also dipped from a high of 92% in week five to 84% in week seven.

Although the economy is of course in its worst state since 2009, if support continues to reach businesses ASAP, then the local recovery may be made that bit easier.

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