News article

Coronavirus: NI Micro-business Hardship Fund

26 May 2020

The NI Executive has launched a new NI Micro-business Hardship Fund to help Northern Ireland based micro-businesses and social enterprises unable to access other regional and national COVID-19 support measures.

Department for the Economy (DfE) will make up to £40 million available through a fund, which is being administered by Invest Northern Ireland on behalf of the Department for the Economy. It will offer emergency funding to businesses facing immediate cash flow difficulties due to the impact of COVID-19.

Summary of the scheme

The funding is available to businesses unable to access the £10,000, £25,000 and Covid-19 Childcare Support grant schemes.

In order to ensure that the £40 million budget is not exceeded, the final amounts awarded will depend on the number of successful applications.

The level of Hardship Fund grant will be up to £10,000 for businesses which pay business rates on premises and up to £5,000 for those that do not pay business rates. Businesses within each category will receive the same amount.

Only one grant will be paid to each eligible business, irrespective of how many properties the business occupies.


Who is eligible
Businesses should ensure they meet the following criteria before applying to the fund:

  • The business must be based in Northern Ireland.
  • At 29 February 2020, the business must have employed between one and nine employees paid via PAYE.  Businesses, where the sole employee is the business owner or company director, are not eligible for this scheme.  The number of employees will be based on headcount. 
  • Since 1 March 2020, the business must have experienced a reduction in turnover in excess of 40% as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic or associated Government restrictions.

Who cannot apply
The NI Micro-business Hardship Fund is open to all micro-business and social enterprises excluding the following:

Businesses should note that other non-repayable Government grants related to COVID-19 will be taken into account and will be deducted, where applicable, from the final grant awarded.

Check if you’re eligible to apply

You can use the online eligibility checker to find out if you can apply for the NI Micro-business Hardship Fund.

Use the online eligibility checker

How to apply

You must complete the eligibility checker to apply for the fund. The online checker will help you find out if you qualify for the scheme. If you are eligible, the checker will direct you to the online application process. 

The business owner/director must complete the application. Your tax agent, adviser or any other third party cannot apply for you. 

Before you apply for the grant scheme, there are some steps that you can to take to prepare for completing your application. See get ready to apply for the NI Micro-business Hardship Fund.  

Applications for the NI Micro-business Hardship Fund will close at 6 pm on Friday 12 June 2020.

After you have applied

Payments will be made after the scheme has closed, and the number of successful applications is determined.

You will be able to check the progress of your submitted application online by logging into your dedicated portal account.

Invest NI will process applications as quickly as possible. Once an application is approved, applicants will be notified by email that their application has been successful.  

Unsuccessful applicants will also be informed by email.

Further information and FAQs

Find further guidance and frequently asked questions on the NI Micro-business Hardship Fund (PDF, 670K).

Call the NI Micro-business Hardship Fund helpline on Tel: 0800 952 4422, if you have an enquiry. The helpline is open 8:30 am - 5 pm, Monday to Friday, including the bank holiday on Monday 25 May. Alternatively, you can make an enquiry online

First published on 15 May 2020