My Department has been liaising closely with the Department of Health and is monitoring the situation in relation to COVID-19 as it evolves. The current and potential impact of COVID-19 on enterprise is becoming more apparent as greater disruptions to supply chains and routes to market become more evident.
My Department has updated its Checklist for Business Continuity Planning in consultation with the HSE with specific references to COVID-19. This is available on my Department’s website and is also being actively promoted through my Department’s social media channels. The continuity planning checklist lays out some of the key risks to the continuity of business activities and the preparatory actions that can be taken by businesses to mitigate these. In addition, the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has published a guidance note for employers and employees in relation to COVID-19 on its website.
The agencies under the remit of my Department have also been taking a proactive approach to ensure that appropriate measures are in place to support SMEs in the event of an outbreak here. Over the past number of weeks, Enterprise Ireland (EI) has undertaken internal work to determine how companies may be impacted, the potential scale of the impact on companies, and the responses that may be required to support companies.
This has involved engaging directly with clients to gather information on potential impact, and has also included providing information and advice to clients through the EI website. Comprehensive client guidance is currently being developed to provide EI staff with information to enable them to respond and communicate effectively with clients. A steering group has been established in EI to manage its response to COVID-19, with the work of the group covering both client need identification and engagement and internal business continuity planning.
The Local Enterprise Office (LEO) Centre of Excellence has circulated Department of Health public notices to their 31 LEOs located in the Local Authorities. Furthermore, the public notices and checklist for business continuity planning have been distributed to LEO clients.
As a result of the onset of COVID-19, it is possible that a number of businesses could experience working capital pressure due to supply chain and other impacts. There are several financing supports available that may be appropriate to provide liquidity support to impacted businesses:
- The Credit Guarantee Scheme provides a State guarantee to accredited lenders (Allied Irish Banks, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank Ireland) of 80% on eligible loans or Performance Bonds to viable micro, small and medium-sized enterprises. Facilities from €10,000 up to €1,000,000 are offered. To access the Scheme, businesses can approach one of the participating providers. The Scheme is operated by the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI);
- The Microenterprise Loan Fund Scheme is administered by Microfinance Ireland with the purpose of providing unsecured loans of €2,000 up to €25,000 for terms of up to five years to microenterprises employing fewer than 10 people, with viable business propositions that cannot obtain funding through traditional sources. The scheme can be accessed through the Local Enterprise Office Network, through the Irish Local Development Network, or by applying directly using the Microfinance Ireland portal;
- While the SBCI Brexit Loan Scheme supports working capital needs for businesses impacted by Brexit-related issues, it is possible that some businesses may be impacted by both Brexit and COVID-19 related working capital issues. Therefore, it may be a suitable support for some affected businesses.
Officials from my Department participate in various co-ordination groups relevant to managing Ireland’s response to COVID-19, such as the Health Threats Co-Ordination Group, the Department of Health Communications Group and a Senior Officials Group convened by Department of An Taoiseach, and are kept up to date with all developments and can also raise issues that are relevant to our Department and Offices.
My Department will continue to monitor evolving developments and will engage with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Department of Health and other Government bodies in relation to further precautionary measures.