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More than £35m paid to Wolverhampton businesses amid coronavirus lockdown

By Thomas Parkes | Wolverhampton | Business | Published:

Support boost for businesses as claims for unemployment benefit rises dramatically.

A quiet King Street in Wolverhampton city centre during the lockdown

More than £35 million has been handed out to businesses across Wolverhampton through a coronavirus support scheme.

A total of £35.1 million was given to more than 3,100 businesses in the city – with a further 291 working to get the cash.

The funding comes from the Government's cash pot to help those in need, with the money handed out by Wolverhampton Council.

It came as claims for unemployment benefit rose dramatically across the Black Country and Staffordshire as the lockdown took hold.

Councillor Harman Banger, cabinet member for city economy, said: "We are doing everything we can to support our small businesses to access this money including proactively contacting businesses who are eligible.

WALSALL COPYRIGHT EXPRESS&STAR TIM THURSFIELD 08/01/18.GV of City of Wolverhampton Council building. Civic Centre................

"We have staff on hand to support businesses who require help and advice with the online process, and I would urge eligible businesses to get in touch.

"If you’ve already filled in an online form but haven’t received your grant payment yet, please bear with us.

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"Rest assured, we will make sure every business is supported in whichever way possible."

It means 90 per cent of requests to the Small Business Grant Fund and Retail Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund have been paid out.

Anyone with any business support queries should call 01902 290242 between 9am and 5pm from Monday to Thursday or from 9am to 4.30pm on Fridays.

Further communication with businesses may be necessary if any of the required information is missing, chiefs have said.

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Yesterday the impact of the coronavirus lockdown on businesses and jobs revealed how some areas saw a doubling of benefits claimants – a trend not seen in living memory.

The Office for National Statistics says more than 13,000 extra claims were made in the Black Country last month.

Unemployment in the region also jumped 14,000 in the three months to March as the labour market was struck by the pandemic

UK jobless claims under Universal Credit rose by 856,000 to 2.1 million in April, compared with March.

For the West Midlands, the numbers claiming unemployment benefits, including Universal Credit, were up 72,660 from March to 217,725 – 7.6 per cent of the working population.

Those claiming benefit doubled or almost doubled in rural areas like Staffordshire, South Staffordshire, Stafford, Lichfield and Wyre Forest. In the Black Country Sandwell saw the biggest rise of 4,370 to 15,215. In Dudley it jumped by around a third to 12,875 and Wolverhampton was up 4,295 to 14,715. Walsall had a rise of 3,635 to 12,260 and Cannock Chase saw a rise of 1,360 to 3,025.

Samantha Mclean, Jobcentre Plus disability employment advisor leader at Sandwell, said that the Department for Work and Pensions service had had to focus on the huge rise in claims in the early weeks of the lockdown.

“We had to redeploy 10,000 staff to work on the front line processing claims and an extra 5,000 staff were recruited nationally by the DWP for Jobcentres and service centres,” she explained.

Matthew Fell of the CBI said: “The data for the first few weeks of the Covid-19 crisis reveals sharp falls in vacancies and hours worked, coupled with soaring benefits claims. While employment shows a smaller decline, pointing to the early success of the job retention scheme, the severe impact of the pandemic on the UK labour market is already becoming clear.”

Thomas Parkes

By Thomas Parkes
Trainee Reporter - @TParkes_Star

Trainee reporter at the Express & Star, based in Wolverhampton. Got a story? Get in touch at thomas.parkes@expressandstar.co.uk.

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