MORE than 3,500 business owners across County Durham have shared £43million of support grants to help them get through the Coronavirus pandemic.

Durham County Council staff have worked tirelessly since the launch of the grants since last week to process payments.

To date, the council has already supported 3,575 businesses, paying more than £43 million and expects to exceed £50 million of payments by 5pm today.

The grants are either £10,000 or £25,000, depending on the size of the company, and do not need to be repaid.

They are one-off payments designed to help small businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors, many of which were the first to close or be affected by the Coronavirus outbreak.

Heather Harker-Smith, who runs the bridal boutique Alice Elizabeth in Coxhoe, said: “I applied for the grant last Friday morning and it was with me by the afternoon. I was thoroughly impressed. Up until then, there had been a promise of support but on Friday afternoon that promise became real and it’s made such a difference.

“I can now continue to pay my bills and staff wages as normal. I’m determined that my business will continue to thrive when this is over and this grant has provided that much-needed security in what has been such a worrying time. It has even helped me to sleep for the first time in a long time.”

There are more than 8,000 properties across the county eligible for the grants and it is expected that the council will have paid out £89 million once all applications have been processed.

That is in addition to the business rates reliefs which have already been processed in the week.

Revised bills have been issued, providing a further £44 million of reductions to business rates bills in order to support local businesses even more.

The Northern Echo:

Angela Warner, who owns Isabella’s Coffee Shop in Shotley Bridge, said: “It was so easy to apply for the grant. I’ve already helped another business in the village to apply for theirs and I would encourage any other eligible business to apply.

“Without it, I would have had to lay off my staff. Two of those couldn’t afford to live without their wage and our bills would have also continued so it’s made such a difference to receive the grant so quickly. It’s helping us all to survive and it could allow others to do the same.”

Eligible businesses are encouraged to apply as soon as possible, guidelines set by the government are available online at

The Northern Echo: Durham County Councillor Carl Marshall

Councillor Carl Marshall, portfolio holder for economic regeneration, said: “I’m delighted that we have been able to make a difference to so many businesses already. We know that these are difficult times and we know our local businesses need these support grants, which is why our staff are working tirelessly to prioritise making payments to them.

“I would ask any eligible business who hasn’t yet applied to please do so. We are committed to supporting all our businesses through this pandemic and these grants will go a long way in doing that. Companies can submit their details online and we will process their payment as quickly as possible.

“I have to again say thanks to our staff for all their hard work.”