A crunch meeting is being held today between Government officers and business representatives to discuss a support package for cafes, bars and restaurants.
Chamber of Commerce President, Murray Norton, confirmed to Express that a working group of the Chamber, the Jersey Hospitality Association and Government officers are due to discuss better financial support for struggling businesses who have been hit by the covid restrictions.
The hospitality sector in particular has been hit hard after being forced to shut ahead of the Christmas period - what is normally its most profitable time of year - due to soaring covid cases.
“Chamber had a meeting on Thursday last week, and were also in a meeting with other representatives of hospitality [on Monday]," Mr Norton said.
“We’re due to have another smaller working group of the Jersey Chamber of Commerce and the JHA and Officers, and we’re due to have that meeting tomorrow."
Pictured: Over 50 hospitality businesses banded together last week in an open letter to campaign for more Government support following December's closure of the industry.
On the progress made so far, he explained: “I think at this stage, it’s really positive to know that the Government wants to talk to Chamber and its members, and I think it’s encouraging that they’re listening to what we’re asking for… they’re not agreeing to it yet, but they’re keen to help wherever they can.”
He also emphasised that though the meeting would revolve around hospitality, Chamber was engaging in conversations on sectors like retail, and hair and beauty, receiving a package too.
“Chamber represents lots of different sectors, and there are lots of other sectors that would benefit from having support for fixed costs,” he added.
“I know Senator Farnham has already publicly said that he would like to look at the retail sectors and other sectors to support them as well.”
Pictured: The hair and beauty sector has also been heavily impacted by the continued 'circuit breaker,' leaving businesses to pay bills, frequently on zero income.
He also put emphasis on getting the support packages out quickly, saying: “This is not something that needs to be pushed down the line for weeks and weeks, people need help now.
“Every day is a long time for businesses suffering as much as they are at the moment.”
The latest meetings come following outcries from local businesses heavily criticising the Government for a lack of full support, saying that the current Phase-3 Co-Funded Payroll Scheme is not enough to sustain them.
This included an open letter signed by over 50 local hospitality businesses, expressing their “absolute disappointment, frustration” and “mounting anger” at the level of support on offer.
Similar movements have been happening across sectors too - a campaign on Facebook, ‘Support Jersey Family Business’ was established last Friday by five local business owners “to call on The Government of Jersey for financial support towards fixed business costs” – in under a week, it has already reached over 1,000 likes.
A petition the group put up on Monday, asking the Government to establish a grant system based on the level of detriment, has also hit over 1,000 signatures within the space of two days.
Talking to Express, one of the group’s founders, NEON Salon and School owner Victoria Querée explained that the group was formed out of “pure frustration” over many small businesses being expected to pay bills, fixed costs, social security and top up employee wages, whilst earning zero income.
On what the group are asking for, she outlined: “While we’re closed, we just hope to have 100% payroll co-funding, a grant calculated on the level of detriment we have, and we would like our contributions to be reduced - just to get us through the storm, to come out the other end, to continue growing our businesses and continue contributing to the economy.”
She added: “We understand that we’re in a pandemic, we understand that this is a difficult time for everybody, but in order for businesses to survive, they need to put the support in place now. If not, many are not going to come out the other end, it’s as simple as that.”
Responding to queries of when the package would be announced, a Government spokesperson told Express: “Ministers and officials understand the acute pressures felt in several sectors of the business community, not just hospitality.
“Work continues to develop a package of further measures that recognises the need to deliver timely additional support.”
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