News News Covid-19 Council help available THE current coronavirus outbreak will have affected people across the Cheshire west borough in a number of different ways report the Northwich Guardian. This includes those who are without work or looking for employment, those struggling to pay council tax and those vulnerable people seeking assistance obtaining food. To help those in such situations, Cheshire West and Chester Council says it is doing ‘everything it can’ and has provided information on how people can ask for help. Cllr Richard Beacham, cabinet member for housing, regeneration and growth, said: “There is understandable worry across the country as the measures to tackle coronavirus increase. “The situation in the workplace is changing daily, and some businesses have closed or are reducing their workforce. “We are doing everything we can to support our residents through this period. “Whether you are looking for a new job, need advice for your own business, require help with council tax or benefits issues - our services can help.” The Government has announced £7 billion of additional support to households through housing benefit, tax credits and Universal Credit. The Chancellor also announced the creation of a Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme to provide grants to employers covering 80 per cent of employee salaries up to £2,500 per month for those who aren’t working but kept on the payroll, rather than being laid off. This scheme is open to any employer in the country and administered by HMRC and will cover the cost of wages backdated to 1 March for at least three months. There is no limit on the funding available for the scheme, guidance on which can be found at gov.uk/government/publications. Universal Credit standard allowance will be increased by £1,000 for the next year and the Working Tax Credit basic element as well. People who are self-employed will also be able to access Universal Credit if they are out of work. Any resident who requires help getting back into employment as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, can contact the council’s Work Zone team for advice and support. The Work Zones aim to match the skills of people looking for work with the requirements of local businesses. Email [email protected] in the first instance or visit cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk/workzones for more information. The council has a legal responsibility to collect council tax, but anyone feeling under pressure during this time should email [email protected] to confidentially discuss options. The council’s Help in Emergencies for Local People (HELP) team can provide assistance with food or fuel for vulnerable people in crisis. Residents are advised to apply online at cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk instead of telephoning, so that HELP phone lines are reserved for vulnerable people who cannot apply online. Only telephone the HELP number if you are vulnerable, with no access online and are experiencing a crisis now. If this applies, please call: 0300 123 7065. This team is also helping with free school meals, housing benefit and council tax reduction applications. No difficulties are anticipated in processing these applications as the team of homeworkers are working on these as they arrive. The council’s customer service office in Northwich is now closed following the Government’s health guidelines for coronavirus, but staff can still be contacted via email and telephone.