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Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 27 May 2020

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Questions (399)

Alan Kelly

Question:

399. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the supports that will put in place to help businesses reopen; and the additional measures that will be put in place to help with the cost of wages and changes that businesses will need to make before they can be reopened. [7092/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Business)

Covid-19 has brought unprecedented challenges for all of us in society, since the start of the pandemic, a key focus of Government has been to keep the supports provided for businesses under review and to continue to offer support as they work through the challenges facing them.

In order to assist businesses to address the challenges posed by COVID-19, the Government has put in place a comprehensive suite of supports for firms of all sizes, which includes the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS), grants, low-cost loans, write-off of commercial rates and deferred tax liabilities.

These supports are designed to build confidence, to further assist businesses in terms of the management of their companies and to allow them to begin looking to the future and start charting a path forward for weeks and months ahead. For a full list of supports for business please see https://dbei.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Supports-for-SMEs/COVID-19-supports/.

The full range of Enterprise Ireland, IDA, Local Enterprise Office (LEO) and Údarás na Gaeltachta grant and advisory supports continue to be available to eligible firms to help with strategies to access finance, commence or ramp-up online trading activity, reconfigure business models, cut costs, innovate, diversify markets and supply chains and to improve competitiveness.

In that regard, Government will continue to explore funding potential for all enterprises including micro-enterprises as they work through the challenges facing them, including through any mechanisms allowable through the EU’s state aid framework.

For SMEs:

The €200m SBCI COVID-19 Working Capital Loan Scheme will increase by €250m to €450m. The Scheme is providing essential liquidity support to businesses with over 1,400 applications received by the SBCI so far. Loans can be between €25,000 and €1.5m at a maximum interest rate of 4%. Loan terms range from one year to three years and loans can be unsecured up to €500,000. Interest-only repayments may be available at the start of the loans.

I am supporting the provision of significant additional COVID-19 funding through the SBCI Future Growth Loan Scheme, which will be released in tranches, to provide longer-term loans to COVID-19 impacted businesses. Loan amounts will range €100,000 to a maximum of €3,000,000 per applicant. Loan terms range from 8 to 10 years and loans of up to €500,000 can be unsecured. Interest-only repayments may be available at the start of the loans. The maximum interest rate will be 4.5%.New €2,500 Business Continuity Voucher:

This Voucher is available through Local Enterprise Offices and is designed for businesses across every sector that employ up to 50 people. It can be used by companies to develop short-term and long-term strategies to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. These measures are in addition to the €150m of funding capacity in the Government’s Credit Guarantee Scheme. Microenterprises (under 10 employees) and businesses with over 10 employees:

I am providing Microfinance Ireland (MFI), which is administering special COVID-19 Loans, with an additional €13m in capital support bringing its total lending capacity up to €20m for the coming period. There is also a substantial reduction in interest rates on these loans from 7.8% to 4.5%. Loans can be made up to €50,000 with no repayments required and no interest charged in the first six months.

The €2,500 Trading Online Voucher Scheme for microenterprises is being expanded - an additional €3.3m is being provided to the scheme bringing the total available to €5.6m. The scheme is also being made more flexible - allowing businesses to apply for a second voucher of up to €2,500 where they have successfully utilised their first one; and allowing subscriptions to low-cost online retailing platform solutions to quickly establish a retailing presence online.

For Enterprise Ireland

Sustaining Enterprise Fund: This €180 million fund will provide support to eligible manufacturing and internationally traded services companies employing 10 or more employees who have been impacted by a 15 per cent or more reduction in actual or projected turnover or profit, and/or have a significant increase in costs as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. The objectives of the scheme are to ensure eligible companies have access to the necessary liquidity and sustain business so that companies can return to viability and contribute to the recovery of the Irish economy.

The Fund will provide financial assistance in the form of repayable advances of up to a maximum of €800,000 per company.

Sustaining Enterprise Fund – Small Enterprise: This fund will provide a €25k to €50k short term working capital injection to eligible smaller companies to support business continuity and strengthen their ability to return to growth and be trading strongly in 3 years’ time.

New HPSU fund to Sustain Enterprises: This fund is aimed at EI High Potential Start-Up companies who, due to the Covid-19 pandemic are facing delays to projected sales growth and whose fundraising plans are significantly impacted or stalled. Under this fund, HPSUs can apply for co-investment of €50,000 per undertaking in the form of equity or convertible debt instruments.

In addition to this fund Enterprise Ireland has launched the following supports:

Covid-19 Business Financial Planning Grant: A €5k grant for eligible companies to work with third party consultants to prepare a detailed financial plan with forecasts and assumptions.

Lean Business Continuity Voucher: A €2.5k voucher for eligible companies to access training or advisory services support related to the continued operation of their business during the current pandemic.

Covid-19 Online Retail Scheme is a grant for retail companies with greater than 10 employees to develop a more competitive online offer. This competitive call has a budget of €2 million. Successful applicants will receive funding support of up to 80% of project costs, with a maximum grant of €40,000.

Restart Grant is a new €250m Restart Grant providing direct grant aid to micro and small businesses, application forms are now available online on all local authority websites. The grant is a contribution towards the cost of re-opening or keeping a business operational and re-connecting with employees and customers.

To qualify for the Restart Grant, a business must

- have a turnover of less than €5m and have 50 or less employees.

- have suffered a projected 25%+ loss in revenue from 1st April 2020 to 30th June 2020.

- commit to remain open or to reopen if it was closed. The business must also declare the intention to retain employees that are benefitting from the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS).

In addition to these new supports, there are a range of other supports to assist companies to start to scale, innovate, remain competitive, diversify into new markets and respond to Covid-19; these are:

- Strategic Consultancy Grant

- Act On supports

- Key Manager Grant

- Business Process Improvement Grant

- eiLearn Online Learning Platform

- EI Virtual Mentoring Support

InterTradeIreland

ITI has launched two new business supports, these are currently being targeted at companies who are already on one of their programmes.

E-merge: this will enable companies to engage consultancy support & advice (to the value of £2500/€2800) to help them develop online sales & ecommerce solutions

Emergency Business Solutions: Fully funded consultancy support & advice (to the value of £2000/€2250) to address key business challenges in areas such as emergency cashflow, loan applications and HR/People.

Together with the suite of Covid-19 supports The Return to Work Safely Protocol has been designed to support employers and workers to put measures in place that will prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, as the economy begins to slowly open up, following the temporary closure of most businesses during the worst phase of the current pandemic. The national Return to Work Safely Protocol is designed to translate these measures into a clear compliance framework designed for places of work. This is to help businesses to reopen so that workers can feel safe returning to work. The Health and Safety Authority will ensure compliance with the Protocol through a range of measures including advice, guidance, inspection and enforcement action as appropriate under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005.

The National Return to Work Safely Protocol is a useful guide for businesses in making their assessments and adapting their workplace procedures and practices to comply fully with the COVID-19 related public health protection measures. It sets out in very clear terms for employers and workers the steps that they must take firstly before a workplace reopens, and then while it continues to operate.

The Protocol is available on www.gov.ie.

The HSA will be the lead agency in overseeing compliance with the Protocol in the workplace. If employers or employees need further guidance on the Protocol, the HSA Helpline can be contacted at 1890 289 389 or wcu@hsa.ie.

The National Standards Authority of Ireland’s (NSAI) recently published COVID-19 Workplace Protection and Improvement Guide and the Covid-19 Retail Protection and Improvement Guide contain useful information that can be applied across many businesses.

It is important to check https://www.gov.ie/en/campaigns/c36c85-covid-19-coronavirus/ for the latest information, public health advice and guidelines from Government in relation to Covid-19.

The Government will continue to monitor the need for sectoral guides, and should a need arise, I will work with my Department and Agencies to consider how we would best support or publish such a guide. I can assure the Deputy that I continue to work with my colleagues across Government to examine further appropriate supports to assist businesses impacted by Covid-19.

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