SMALL firms have been thrown an £18million lifeline, as councils back businesses that are struggling during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Southend Council bosses say they had 1,300 applications for the £10,000 grants, totalling £13million.

The scheme was announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

The authority confirmed the grants were first paid out on Wednesday, with more distributed yesterday and into the Easter weekend.

More than 1,300 businesses have applied for the small businesses grant so far, and almost 400 have applied for the retail, hospitality and leisure business grant up until now.

This figure is set to rise.

Meanwhile, Rochford Council has also begun distributing its business grants, with £5.3 million to be given out before and during the Easter weekend.

460 businesses across Rochford will benefit from the grants.

This figure is also set to rise.

Kevin Robinson, leading councillor for business, leisure and tourism at Southend Council, said: “We know how important these grants are to local businesses and their future, and that is why our teams have been working very hard to act on the Government guidance being issued on this, and to get a proper process in place to enable secure payments can be made to the right businesses.

“We have a large team of officers working on this I am pleased to say that the first grants were processed on Tuesday night and payments made from the council yesterday morning.

“This process continued yesterday and work will continue today and over the Easter weekend to ensure that businesses start to see that vital cashflow into their bank accounts.

“We are also writing to businesses again to remind them to apply if they think they are eligible.

“We would ask that those filling in the application forms to include their bank details as this will speed up the process and mean we don’t need to phone those applicants to request details.

“If any businesses think they are eligible for the grants, please visit”

Mike Steptoe, leader of Rochford Council, said: “We are doing everything we can to ensure we support the business community.

“Our council officers have stepped up admirably and have gone above and beyond to ensure the grants are paid.”