Senedd roundup: Emergency business support scheme oversubscribed within days of launch
The £100 million business loan scheme launched by the Welsh Government to help companies hit by the coronavirus pandemic is fully subscribed after just one week.
More than 1,500 applications have already been received for the fund, run by the Development Bank of Wales. The scheme was launched last Monday as part of the government’s £500 million Economic Resilience Fund.
Economy, Transport and North Wales Minister Ken Skates hailed the success of the initiative but called for further support from the UK government to assist Welsh companies during the ongoing crisis: ”The Development Bank’s loan scheme has been absolutely crucial in helping businesses facing financial difficulties as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
The level of demand in just over one week is clear proof that this was the right product at the right time. Whilst DBW would normally expect to complete around 400 investments over the course of a year, in little over a week they have received a staggering 1500 applications. I will be writing to the Chancellor calling on him to respond and learn from the success of the scheme and to release more funding so that we can launch a second phase of DBW support.”
Responding to the minister’s comments, Plaid Cymru’s shadow minister for the economy Helen Mary Jones AM said: “This is terrible news for businesses up and down Wales. Hundreds of businesses have been contacting us struggling with cash flow – this scheme was their way out.
“It’s not good enough for Ken Skates to say this was the ‘right product at the right time’. Businesses are in limbo and people are at the risk of losing everything.
“The Welsh Government need to say now what they’re going to do to help the hundreds of businesses still struggling and waiting for much needed support.
The government we will be announcing further details shortly on the remaining £400 million in the emergency pot from the Economic Resilience Fund with the aim of being open it to new applications next week.
Drakeford confirms lockdown extension
First Minister Mark Drakeford has confirmed the current coronavirus lockdown in Wales will be extended beyond the end of next week.
The restrictions, originally implemented three weeks ago, were slated to be lifted after the Easter holiday.
He told AMs at a virtual Senedd session: ”We will not throw away the gains we have made by abandoning our efforts as they begin to bear fruit.”
“The actions every one of us is taking is helping to slow down the spread of the virus and protect the most vulnerable.”
Drakeford described breaches of the lockdown in Wales as “sporadic” and pledged to give further enforcement powers to the police if they were requested.
Adding that details of the extended restrictions will be announced shortly, Drakeford said he had discussed the matter with ministers in Northern Ireland, Scotland and the UK government. “There is more work to do in reviewing the regulations,” he said.”The precise nature of what will follow the current regime will be agreed over the coming days.”
Covid-19 death toll rises to 245
Public Health Wales said 33 more people have died after testing positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of deaths in Wales to 245.
Dr Robin Howe, from Public Health Wales, also confirmed 284 new cases have tested positive for the virus, bringing the overall number of confirmed cases in Wales to 4,073.
Dr Howe also explained it was anticipated that case numbers would be “lower than usual” on Thursday as officials push back the time when they count new cases.