I am pleased to present my Department’s further Revised Estimate for 2020 to the committee. I express my appreciation to the committee for taking our Revised Estimate this evening.
The further Revised Estimate presented today seeks to incorporate into our Department’s Vote the €1.969 million in funding arising from the transfer of certain functions to my Department; the additional €450 million in funding agreed in the Government’s July stimulus; and the additional €2 million in funding for this year agreed for the Tyndall Institute in the budget. The Estimate also seeks the reallocation of moneys between certain programmes to meet excesses on the humanitarian relief and credit guarantee schemes, and the change in the title of the Department’s Vote. The €1.908 billion being sought effectively doubles the Department’s 2019 Revised Estimate. It will also increase the allocation voted to my Department by the Dáil last June by over €450 million.
The €1.551 billion in capital funding in the Estimate is almost €930 million greater than the capital allocation provided the original 2019 Revised Estimate. The vast majority of this increase is to enable the Department and our agencies to continue assisting business in the current Covid pandemic and in preparations for Brexit.
Some €550 million is being provided for the restart grant, which has been of major assistance to businesses in reconnecting to the marketplace and taking employees back on. An additional €10 million is being provided for Enterprise Ireland's, EI, seed and venture programme, €14 million in further moneys for the online retail programme, for which, 330 retailers have been approved to date, €12 million to EI’s hubs and incubation centres and €20 million for the "ready for customs" grant scheme, which is particularly important given the imminent reality of Brexit.
The €25 million being provided to the innovative joint IDA-EI Covid-19 life sciences products scheme will not only facilitate the research and development of Covid-19 products, but also deliver additional direct employment and other benefits for the economy.
As Deputies will all agree, local enterprise offices, LEO, work closely with local businesses that have been particularly impacted by Covid-19 and Brexit. The additional funding allocated to the LEOs has allowed them to continue to meet the increasing demand for their services through the business continuity voucher scheme, the trading online voucher scheme and their tailored mentoring programmes. The Estimate also provides almost €100 million in "access to finance" supports, including more than €41 million to Microfinance Ireland and €56.96 million for the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland's, SBCI, working capital and future growth loans schemes.
These Government backed loans demonstrate the Government’s strong commitment to ensure businesses, particularly small businesses, can readily access the necessary working capital and finance facilities to enable them to come through this difficult period.
The Estimate also includes an additional €2 million in capital funding for the Tyndall Institute, as announced in the budget, and increases my Department’s total funding to the Institute this year to €9 million.
The current expenditure allocation of €356.87 million in the Revised Estimate represents an increase of €27.76 million on the Department’s 2019 Revised Estimates Volume, REV, allocation. Some €10 million of this is being provided to IDA Ireland to enable it to ramp up its promotional and awareness activity. Some €6 million is being provided to EI, LEOs and the Department to ensure we have the necessary staffing itself in place to administer all the new schemes and interventions.
Almost €2 million of the current expenditure allocation in the Revised Estimate reflects funding related to the transfer of functions from the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Social Protection. It also includes €490,000 for the Low Pay Commission.
Finally, the Revised Estimate recalibrates expected savings on the Department’s INTERREG programme to meet additional funding required in some other areas. Some €250,000 is being provided to the humanitarian relief scheme to fund claims under the scheme arising from severe weather events, particularly in the south-west. An additional €500,000 is required by the credit guarantee scheme to meet additional costs arising from the entry of a number of additional lenders into the scheme.
The Further Revised Estimate is essential to ensure my Department has the necessary funding to enable it and its agencies to continue to provide the funding, loans and advice vital to businesses trying to overcome the twin challenges of Brexit and Covid-19.
I hope the information provided to the committee this evening, and the briefing provided by my officials, demonstrates how this funding is being spent. Above all, it is about helping workers to hang onto their jobs and keeping businesses open. I look forward to answering any questions members may have.