Lewisham Council plans to start giving out extra funding to help with COVID-19 funeral costs. 

Mayor and cabinet are set to approve a “package of positive steps” the council is taking to support businesses and residents through the initial three months of the coronavirus crisis. 

The report, due to be considered on Wednesday (May 13), sets out what the council has been doing and plans to do amid the outbreak. 

According to the report, the council is holding off sending any payment reminders for bills, while it is not threatening enforcement action. 

It is inviting all businesses and residents to get in contact to discuss any financial difficulties caused by COVID-19, and is offering flexibility when it comes to paying fees and charges. 

The council is proposing to introduce temporary top-ups to emergency loans to help with “unexpected COVID-19 bereavement costs” while it waits for the £1,000 funeral expenses payments from the Department for Work and Pensions, which have been delayed amid the crisis.  

For the initial three months, business rents can be deferred, while the council will consider in June whether to continue to defer rents for businesses as risk of “imminent closure”.  

Businesses forced to close because of the coronavirus outbreak do not need to pay commercial waste costs, while those who have been able to stay open can defer the payments for three months from April 1.  

The council will continue to send businesses invoices for licence fees but will not chase for payments for three months after lockdown ends. 

“[The council] will provide a three-month grace period after the Covid-19 lockdown regulations cease before chasing payments and suspending premises,” according to the report.  

All fees and charges for market traders and shop forecourt licences have ceased.  

The council is planning to establish a ‘Lewisham backs business’ task force, made up of lead members and representatives from the local business community, industry, and officers “to develop and coordinate a whole council response to supporting business and jobs recovery quickly and inclusively from the disruption of Covid 19”. 

According to the report, the lockdown will cost the council more than £25 million.  

“This assumes it lasts for three months and recognises increased costs, but also the loss of significant income streams. 

“How much of this actually arises will only emerge as the crisis response continues and pending the Government clarifying how long the restrictions will be in force and how much is left to fall on our reserves or for which the Council may be compensated by government. 

“To date government have provided the Council with £18 million for social care and other costs,” the report states. 

As of May 3, the council had given out £31,360,000 in business relief grants after receiving £47,004,000 from the Government.  

Residents forced to go on universal credit because of the lockdown – the council estimates around 3,000 people in Lewisham – can also apply for reduced council tax.  

People with no other support available can get a one-off payment to help buy food or fuel, which does not need to be paid back.

Residents can also apply for support grants of up to £1,000, which do not have to be repaid, or emergency loans, which do.  

Support grants, which allow people to stay or come back to their community for specific reasons, “can only be awarded to provide assistance in the most serious situations where no other source of funding is available”.