I welcome the opportunity to update Members on the initiatives the Government has taken to support businesses in meeting the challenges presented by Covid-19. Covid-19 has impacted upon our society and our economy in a manner we could not have imagined. Unemployment is at a rate we have never seen and our business community is under extraordinary and unprecedented pressure. Covid-19 came at us with unprecedented speed and the Government moved quickly to bring forward a series of measures to support those impacted by the pandemic. These include emergency income support such as the temporary Covid-19 wage subsidy scheme, the Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payment and a range of business supports on which I will provide further updates.
As of this morning, almost 54,000 employers had registered with Revenue for the wage subsidy scheme, with more than 462,000 receiving a payment under the scheme. The cumulative value of payments made to employers under the scheme is €936 million. Last week, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection reported that it had issued payments valued at €209.3 million to 598,000 people in respect of their application for the Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payment.
The Government's roadmap for reopening society and economy sets out a five-stage plan to ease the Covid-19 restrictions. As the Taoiseach has said, our objective is to help our country get through this emergency, rebuild our economy, get people back to work and keep them safe while doing so. A key tool in achieving this objective is the Return to Work Safely Protocol I announced last Saturday. This protocol clearly and comprehensively sets out the steps and processes employers and workers must take to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 in the workplace. The protocol was developed and agreed in consultation with the members of the Labour Employer Economic Forum, the forum for high-level dialogue between the Government and union and employer representatives on labour market issues. Participants in this process included IBEC, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Chambers Ireland and the Construction Industry Federation.
It is the result of a collaborative effort led by my Department and the Department of the Taoiseach involving the Health and Safety Authority, HSA, the Department of Health and the HSE. Collaboration between employers and workers will be central to the success of our safe return to work. That is why we have specified in the protocol that every employer should appoint at least one worker representative whose role is to work collaboratively with employers to assist in the measures to prevent Covid-19 and monitor their adherence in the workplace.
The protocol applies to all workplaces across the economy. Specific sectors may need to introduce additional safeguards, but this document sets the standard set of measures required in every workplace. The HSA will take a collaborative approach in the first instance as it oversees implementation of the protocol. Inspectors will provide advice and support to employers and employees on how they are implementing the Covid-19 measures in the workplace. If necessary, they will also be able to visit the workplace and advise on any shortcomings through a report of inspection, which is left with the employer at the end of the visit and can include timelines and follow-ups needed. They also have the power to serve an improvement notice, a legal directive from an inspector requiring that certain improvements be carried out in a specific timeframe, or a prohibition notice, a legal instruction directing that a specified work activity be stopped.
Ultimately, if a business does not co-operate and comply with the public health guidelines after being asked to make improvements, the HSA will be able to order it to shut down the workplace. I am confident that employers want their businesses to remain open and want to do the right things to protect and support their workers. This document provides them with the know-how to ensure that they have a safe working environment for all.
I am aware that many sectors have already developed detailed Covid-19 return-to-work plans that capture most, if not all, of the measures in the protocol, and I acknowledge and thank them for their work. I acknowledge that many critical and essential businesses have continued to operate during the pandemic with the appropriate safeguards in place.
The Government has announced a range of supports to assist businesses impacted by Covid-19. I updated the House on 30 April with regard to the €1 billion package of liquidity measures I announced in early April. On 2 May, along with the Minister for Finance, I announced a number of additional measures to aid the economy as the Covid-19 restrictions start to be lifted. These are part of an economic plan worth up to €6.5 billion to help businesses impacted by Covid-19 and minimise the extent of the economic damage caused by the pandemic.
These measures are a €250 million fund to provide for the following: restart grants of up to €10,000 for micro and small businesses; a three-month commercial rates waiver for impacted businesses; a €2 billion pandemic stabilisation and recovery fund within the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund, which will make capital available to medium and large enterprises on commercial terms; a €2 billion Covid-19 credit guarantee scheme to support lending to SMEs for terms ranging from three months to six years, which will be below market interest rates; and the warehousing of tax liabilities for a period of 12 months after recommencement of trading during which time there will be no debt enforcement action taken by Revenue and no interest charge accruing in respect of the warehoused debt.
On 7 May, as part of the €180 million sustaining enterprise fund, I announced that Enterprise Ireland will administer a specific sustaining enterprise fund for small businesses. This fund will provide a €25,000 to €50,000 short-term funding injection to eligible smaller companies to strengthen their ability to return to growth. Eligible companies will have suffered, or be projected to suffer, a 15% or more reduction in actual or projected turnover or profit as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak. As I have said, all of these measures are in addition to those supports for business that I put in place at the start of this crisis.
We now have a comprehensive suite of supports for firms of all sizes, which includes grants, low-cost loans, write-off of commercial rates, wage subsidies and deferred tax liabilities, all of which will help to improve cash flow among SMEs. To date, the totality of the supports package the Government has put in place to help businesses and workers through Covid-19 amounts to €12 billion. These supports are designed to build confidence, further assist businesses in terms of the management of their companies and allow them to begin looking to the future and to start charting a path forward for the weeks and months ahead.
I believe the new €250 million restart fund will be a particular help to small businesses. Following Government approval of funding for this scheme on 2 May, my officials have worked urgently with officials in the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to develop the operational details of the scheme. My priority is to ensure that it is a simple and straightforward application process so that small business can access the funding easily. Grants up to a maximum of €10,000 will be available under the scheme to assist small businesses with restocking, fixed costs and adhering to safety requirements. I will be bringing a memo to the Government tomorrow seeking approval for the scheme and I will announce full details afterwards.
I should also explain that, in addition to this, the full range of Enterprise Ireland, IDA, local enterprise office, LEO, and Údarás na Gaeltachta grant and advisory supports continue to be available to companies. We will continue to seek the best ways of supporting people and wider society, and rebuilding the economy so that we can get people back to work safely. We will do this by being cognisant of public health advice and doing what is in the best interests of all people. Throughout this crisis, we have seen just how quickly businesses can change and adapt, whether that is restaurants switching to drive-through restaurants and using contactless payments for deliveries or Irish companies producing PPE to help with the global crisis. We must always remember that the fundamentals of our economy were sound going into this crisis, so businesses can adjust and adapt to the new norm and, as Minister, I want to support them in doing that.
Following the publication of the roadmap, many retailers have asked if they can open earlier than their scheduled phase, if they can meet the public health guidelines. While I appreciate that they wish to get back to business as quickly as they can, all decisions on the timing of the modification or lifting of restrictions will be underpinned by public health advice. As the Taoiseach said when announcing the roadmap, the Government continues to consider the broad range of public health, societal and economic impacts and options for the lifting of the current restrictions. The roadmap is being kept under review and may be accelerated if the spread of Covid-19 is halted earlier than expected.
I am aware some Deputies have had queries from businesses about when they can reopen. Some people have even asked if an official licence is required before a business can reopen. It is up to each individual business to review the roadmap and the Return to Work Safely Protocol carefully, carry out a detailed assessment of their activities with regard to the continuing public health advice, and decide which phase applies to them and, most importantly, if they will be in a position to reopen safely. It is not necessary for businesses to seek official authorisation to reopen.
I assure workers and employers that the Government is committed to ensuring that as the economy reopens, we will do everything we reasonably can to save those businesses that are viable. As we unwind restrictions, we must do so in a way that supports our longer-term economic prospects. Sectoral issues are being worked on at official level across relevant Departments. We must also be mindful of the need to focus on economic recovery, an issue that I expect to be to the fore of any new Government's agenda. The Irish people have made a real difference in the fight against Covid-19.