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NI Micro Business Hardship Fund

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 COVID-19 support measures.

This fund is now closed.

The Fund

The Department for Economy has made £40 million available to help micro businesses. The fund will offer emergency funding to businesses facing immediate cash flow difficulties due to the impact of COVID-19.

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.


Businesses should meet the following criteria:

  • Based in Northern Ireland.
  • At 29 February 2020, the business must have employed between one and nine employees paid via PAYE except where the sole employee is the business owner or company director.  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:

  • Primary agricultural producers i.e. those primarily concerned with crop or animal production or forestry or logging or fisheries or aquaculture.  However, agricultural businesses associated with the processing, marketing and retail of agricultural products can apply to the fund.
  • Businesses eligible for the following NI Executive schemes:
    • £10,000 Small Business Support Grant Scheme
    • £10,000 Small Business Grant for rental properties and Total NAV of £1,590 or below
    • £25,000 Retail, Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure Grant
    • COVID-19 Childcare Support Scheme
  • Charities or social enterprises with charitable status.
  • Social enterprises that receive less than 60% of revenue from trade in goods and/or services.

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.

Apply to Scheme

You must use the eligibility checker to check if your business is eligible. If you are, you will be directed to the application stage.

If you are eligible, you will need the following information to complete the online application form:

  • Your business name.
  • Your contact name and number.
  • Your business address and postcode.
  • Your employer PAYE reference number, also known as an Employer Reference Number or ERN.
  • The number of staff on your PAYE payroll as of 29 February 2020 and evidence to support this.
  • Your LPS Ratepayer ID and Occupancy ID if you pay business rates.
  • Your VAT number if you are VAT registered.
  • Your business bank account number and sort code (only provide bank account details where a BACS payment can be accepted).
  • Details of any de minimis funding your company or any company within the Group (if applicable) has received in the current or previous two fiscal (accounting) years.

Prepare the electronic documents you need

You will also need to provide electronically:

  • A form of photographic ID as your proof of identity, such as a scanned copy of a valid passport or a current driving licence.
  • A scanned copy of a bank statement dated within the last three months for an account used by your business that clearly shows your address.
  • A scanned copy of your PAYE Real Time Information (RTI) return for the period ended 29 February 2020.

The online application process will take approximately one hour to complete. You can save your application and return to it at any time before the closing date.

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.

This scheme is now closed

This page was last updated 12 June 2020.