SLOUGH businesses who ‘fell through the cracks’ have weeks to apply for essential loans or else it will go back into the government’s pocket.

During the peak of the pandemic, the Chancellor of Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, announced one-off loans of £10,000 – £25,000 for businesses who had to close their doors due to the lockdown.

The government decided to cease distributing both the small business grant fund and the hospitality, retail, and leisure grant on August 28.

Speaking to the Observer, Jackie Adams, workstream lead for revenues and benefits at Slough Borough Council (SBC), is urging businesses not to miss out on the government grants.

She said SBC has identified 175 entitled businesses yet to apply – but any money left over will have to be given back to the government.

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Jackie Adams said: “What we don’t want to do is hand money back to the government where we could be giving it to businesses in our area.

“We want to do everything we can to bring it to their attention – but because they’re so such small business, they have a small presence and it’s very hard to find ways to contact them.”

She added that attempts of contact have been made such as distributing letters to entitled businesses on two occasions and emails, if found – but to no avail.

SBC was given nearly £18 million from the government to distribute to small businesses affected by lockdown – and Jackie said 93 per cent of that grant has been handed out.

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Around 1,350 businesses in Slough were identified to be entitled for the grants.

In April, an official table published on the government’s website was released showing the top ten worst authorities for distributing the grants where Slough took the fourth spot.

Jackie Adams said: “I was expecting 1,350 – but we got was nearly 3,000 applications made.

“Some of those were people who didn’t understand the process, or did the application incorrectly, or were hoping.

“We knew we had 1,350 to pay out, so we’re talking about double the amount of claims completed where we needed to go through, check them, and make sure they are legitimate claims.”

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She added SBC was awaiting guidance and was still setting up the processes to distribute the money and ‘couldn’t afford to make any mistakes’ or else it would be the council’s responsibility.

The Observer reported two occasions where businesses got in contact saying they felt ‘in limbo’ and had ‘zero communication’ from the council for weeks after sending an application for the loan.

Jackie Adams said: “We got inundated all in one go.

“As soon as this was announced, every business wanted to apply and get their money as soon as possible.

“We only had limited resources to work on that, we couldn’t recruit for obvious reasons – and, therefore, someone had to be at the end of the queue.

“Anyone that came to us, we tried to prioritise – but while you’re prioritising Mr A, Mr B is going to the back of the queue.”