As many as 800 businesses in Brighton and Hove businesses may be missing out on government grants to help them during the coronavirus crisis.
Labour council leader Nancy Platts urged fellow councillors to help identify those who were eligible for a handout.
She called on them to use their grassroots-level knowledge of their wards as Brighton and Hove City Council tries to track down those entitled to help.
Some may have moved, changed their name or closed, she said, or they may be worried that the money has to be repaid when it doesn’t.
Councillor Platts said: “Since the government announced its grants scheme for small businesses, the council has paid out £63 million to more than 4,600 businesses in the city.
“We estimate there are still up to 800 businesses who are eligible for business grants who have yet to apply.
“We developed a communications plan to raise awareness of the grant from the start of the programme, including updates and information to business partners across the city and targeting mailings.
“Making sure our small businesses get the support they need is an absolute priority, and we have worked hard to get the word out to eligible businesses.
“We are continuing to contact businesses that may be eligible, placing adverts and call-outs on social media, the council website and local media, working with our local MPs and partners in the business community, including the Federation of Small Businesses, Brighton and Hove Economic Partnership and the Brighton and Hove Chamber of Commerce, to ensure all eligible businesses are aware of the grant funding available.
“I am concerned that any business may be struggling and still unaware of the grant.
“Equally I am concerned about giving any money back to government if there is potential for it to help a local business survive the public health crisis.
“It may be that some of those 800 businesses are no longer in operation, have moved or for some reason think that they are not eligible or that the money is a loan rather than a grant.
“Councillors, I have identified a clear role here for us. Between us, we cover the whole city and we know our wards well.
“I have asked for information so that we can quickly identify any that we know to be open and those that have changed their name or closed.
“I am hoping that by providing local knowledge and information to officers, we may be able to speed up the process so they can target their efforts.
“We will then know more quickly what funds are left in the pot and write to government again asking if we can add this to our discretionary fund and help save more local businesses.
“I would very much appreciate your support to do this.”
To find out more, including whether a business may be eligible, click here.