I am keenly aware that businesses are making a massive sacrifice to protect their communities and I am committed to ensuring that the Government will offer as much assistance and support as possible. My Department has worked to ensure that appropriate supports are in place for businesses that require finance as they develop their response to their exposure to impacts arising from COVID-19. The uptake of these supports has been robust and indicates that businesses are taking action in response to this period of disruption.
Budget 2021 provides a significant package of tax and expenditure measures to build the resilience of the economy and to help vulnerable but viable businesses across all sectors. The measures in the Budget are in addition to those announced in the July Stimulus, including the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS), the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS), low cost loans, commercial rates waivers and deferred tax liabilities. Details of the wide range of COVID-19 schemes are available on my Department’s website at https://dbei.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Supports-for-SMEs/COVID-19-supports/.
As a result of the fact that businesses have to close, we are making changes to the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) and the EWSS. The new payment structure for the PUP includes the increase in the top rate to €350 for those who were earning in excess of €400 per week. This change to payment rates will apply in respect of all existing and new applicants.
The EWSS is also being amended to align with the amendment to PUP, with the top payment increasing to €350 for those earning over €400.
As part of Budget 2021, the New Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS), is now operational through Revenue and offers a targeted, timely and temporary sector-specific support to businesses forced to close or trade at significantly reduced levels due to COVID of up to €5,000 per week.
We are providing more and cheaper loan finance through MicroFinance Ireland, SBCI and the new €2bn Credit Guarantee Scheme. I announced the reopening of MFI lending on 31st August and I launched the €2bn Credit Guarantee Scheme on 7th September. We are giving companies extra assistance through an enhanced Restart Plus grant of up to €25,000.
We have also announced a six-month reduction in the VAT rate, going down from 23% to 21%, a reduction in the 13.5% VAT rate to 9% which will benefit the hospitality sector, together with a range of additional public capital investment measures to support the domestic economy.
These supports are supplementary to the wide range of existing loan and voucher schemes available to assist businesses affected by COVID-19 provided through the July Jobs Stimulus and other Government initiatives.
I am working with my colleagues across Government to assist businesses impacted by COVID-19 and I will continue to monitor the measures in place for SMEs with the goal of setting our country towards economic recovery.