Homeworker calls for parity with shops in battle for Covid support grants

A home-based travel agent fighting against the “unfair” allocation of Covid support is hopeful of a small grant to see her business through until bookings pick up again.

Sue Welsh, of Ace Travel 2, told a Travel Weekly webcast she has a second part-time job, which she described as a “lifeline” as she continues to pursue a grant.

Welsh has lobbied her local MP calling for support for homeworking agents, arguing they are still affected by the hit to the sector despite not having to pay rent for a shop.

Special report:Why has access to financial support been so difficult? 

“I still have to pay my fees,” she said. “I still have to pay my business insurance. I have to turn my lights on whether I’m in an office or not. So I think it’s unfair.”

She said that retailers with shops “might have been exempt from business rates anyway” and still receive grants – which aren’t repayable, like the various coronavirus interruption loans the government says it is offering all businesses when pressed on the matter.

“I’m not asking for a fortune,” said Welsh, who is still waiting on information from her council over whether she might receive a grant. “Just what I’m duly eligible for.”

Welsh also pointed out there were agents in other boroughs of Greater Manchester who had received grants, which she said was: “One rule for one, and one rule for another.”

Abta has been lobbying against the “postcode lottery” of grant allocation, and in January said an explicit mention of travel agents added to wording of entitlement to grants should mean all are eligible to financial support.

Welsh said she could get a bounceback loan “tomorrow” but pointed out that, unlike support grants, “you have to pay it back”.

Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, she said she hoped a grant would see her through to around May, after which she is hopeful she will “work around the clock again” to book customers on holidays for summer 2021 onwards.

David Walker, of the Travel Snob, said he hadn’t applied for a grant because he didn’t expect to get one.

He said he had “worked out my finances” when the pandemic began, and had “lowered our spending” accordingly, in order to budget – assuming he wouldn’t be eligible.

Lee Harrison, of Malvern World Travel said the agency had “persevered” and eventually received a grant, but also noted the “slightly different” criteria among council in different areas.

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