I thank the Ceann Comhairle and Deputy Stanton for raising this question. We would see encouraging people to go online as a very important response to the current sutuation in retail. As the largest private sector employer, retail is a key element in providing for the needs of society and other sectors of the economy and it is vital that it continues to develop capability and remain competitive both on the high street and online to avail of all of those other customers that it can reach.
Trading online is a very important route for retail businesses to grow and improve and will be an important element in their recovery over the longer term. I welcome the significant progress made by the retail sector in Ireland to move to online commerce over the past 18 months.
To enable retailers to increase their customer base and build a more resilient business, my Department initially launched a pilot online retail scheme, in 2018. Some 40 retailers across Ireland were provided with €894,636 in funding over two calls of the pilot scheme with grants of between €10,000 and €25,000 on a 50% matched fund basis.
In 2020, my Department launched the Covid-19 online retail scheme in response to the Covid-19 crisis and the urgent need for retail companies to increase their online capability. The Covid-19 online retail scheme is helping companies in the indigenous retail sector that have already started an online journey to enhance and strengthen their existing online presence. This will help them to respond to both domestic and international consumer demand competitively.
To date the Covid-19 online retail scheme has provided funding of €18.2 million to 503 retailers under three calls, bringing the total approved to over €19 million. I have provided the Deputy with the full amount of the online retail scheme funding approvals per county as part of the background to the answer to this question but the Deputy will see for the record that Cork will be second on the table at just over €2 million. I am sure that the Deputy will not be surprised at the success of retail in Cork. Dublin now leads the field at over €5 million.
We are committed to supporting the needs of the retail sector through the retail forum, which I chair and which will meet again tomorrow, in developing their online capability and enhancing their competitiveness. The online retail schemes to date are being reviewed and it is my intention to open a further round of applications for funding later this year and to build on that success in the years ahead as well.
Deputy Stanton will also be aware of the trading online voucher scheme, administered by the Local Enterprise Office network on behalf of my Department. This scheme was transferred into our Department at the start of this year and has allocated funding of €2.3 million to meet 2021 demand. This included a capital carryover of €10.2 million to meet outstanding liabilities from 2020. For the record, more than 13,000 applicants drew down that scheme last year. This year it will be a little less with 4,000 or 5,000 applicants, because of the big push last year. We have been discussing that scheme for years in here and in other places in trying to get businesses to take it up and during Covid-19 there was probably time to address it but also-----