More than 3,500 jobs across County Durham have been safeguarded through a coronavirus recovery grant.

The Durham Business Recovery Grant was launched by Durham County Council in January to help companies overcome the challenges caused by the pandemic, as part of the authority’s commitment to supporting the local economy. To date, it has helped 318 businesses across the county.

The grant was aimed at businesses affected by coronavirus pandemic which were developing recovery plans to meet the challenges they faced – such as purchasing new equipment, developing new products, expanding into new markets, and adapting their operational models.

The scheme, overseen by the council’s dedicated business support service Business Durham, offered businesses with a clear recovery plan, grants from £1,000 up to a maximum of £40,000 and contributed 75 per cent towards eligible recovery plan costs, with the applicants expected to meet a quarter of the project cost.

Originally set at £5m, due to high demand for the grants, an additional £1m was added to the fund bringing it to a £6m scheme.

Flamingo Bar & Café in Seaham was awarded a grant of £14,900 to purchase new equipment and owner Hannah Jackson-Harrison said: “I just don’t think we would have muddled through if we hadn’t had the help in the form of business support grants from it.”

Aycliffe Fabrications received a £32,200 grant which it put towards the cost of the purchase of two new pieces of machinery. Christine Bewley, managing director, said: “With the help of the consultant assigned to us it was easy to discuss not only our future plans, but where our business had come from and how the grant would enable us to move forward after a difficult year.

Cllr Elizabeth Scott, Durham County Council’s Cabinet Member for economy and partnerships, said: “Over the past 16 months, County Durham businesses have displayed immense resilience, adaptability and innovation, as they continue to navigate the challenges of the pandemic.

“However, we appreciate how difficult it has been for businesses and it is vital that we do what we can to help businesses recover and look to the future. That is why we launched our £5 million Durham Business Recovery Grant scheme earlier this year, adding the additional £1m due to the demand to demonstrate our commitment to local businesses, enabling them to adapt and thrive, safeguarding jobs and developing a sustainable economy for the long term. We hope that with the support from the grant scheme, these businesses can continue to thrive, creating more and better jobs and contributing towards a strong competitive economy for the future.”