Millions of pounds have been dished out to businesses in the district to keep them afloat during the coronavirus lockdown.

Braintree Council has announced a £16m bailout to help 1,394 struggling firms and expects that number to rise further in the coming weeks.

The authority is dishing out grants of up to £25,000 to businesses after central Government set aside cash to help businesses affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

All non-essential shops and service were forced to close indefinitely in March in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.

Traders in the leisure, hospitality and retail industry all have access to financial support during the lockdown and will be exempt from paying business rates for the next 12 months.

Bosses at Causeway House say 2,557 grant applications were sent out to firms in the Braintree district last month.

Up to 1,600 have so far been returned.

The council's economic development boss Tom Cunningham said: "We know that businesses are in desperate need of this cash which is why we’ve been working hard on getting this money paid out as quickly as possible.

"The first grants have now gone to over a thousand of our district’s businesses and we are working as fast as we can to process the others.

"This help is vitally important to help businesses survive and to help them bounce back when this epidemic eventually eases."

The council says payments for successful applications are made within seven to ten working days once they have been processed.

Cash grants for retail, hospitality and leisure extends to shops, restaurants, cafes, pubs, cinemas, music venues, leisure centres, hotels, guest houses and self-catering accommodation, estate and letting agents, betting shops and bingo halls.

Smaller businesses in the district also have access to grants of up to £10,000.

Businesses unsure about their eligibility for these grants can contact the Economic Development team via for advice, help and support.