Tuesday, 16 June 2020
Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation
Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
412. To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation further to Parliamentary Question No. 420 of 27 May 2020, the way in which mobile businesses and tradespersons have been better placed to continue to trade as having done so would have been in direct contravention of the restrictions imposed due to Covid-19; her views on whether they should have continued to trade despite the restrictions; if not, the supports that will be made available for such business; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10682/20]
The unprecedented circumstances of the COVID19 global pandemic has resulted in a swiftly evolving landscape for enterprises. The Government has and will continue to use all available tools at its disposal to support businesses and ensure their survival. In that context, I will keep the supports provided under review and continue to support enterprises as they work through the challenges facing them.
Tradespersons and mobile businesses are aware of the need to follow all COVID19 procedures as advised by the HSE and Government. The Government specifically provided for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment to be available for self-employed during the period of the lockdown. However, it is the case that during the period of such restrictions there were some exceptions to the COVID19 emergency restrictions in particular in the case of a household emergency and to address safety issues occurring in the home such as roof repairs, electrical repairs and plumbing emergencies provided each tradesperson adheres to the appropriate safeguards in terms of maintaining social distancing, handwashing, use of appropriate PPE and the necessity to clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces in and around working areas.
Full details on all COVID19 supports for business are available at: .
413. To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if each application to the businesses continuity voucher scheme for businesses impacted by Covid-19 will be fully honoured; the amount of funds granted under the scheme to date against the original allocation; the number of applications to date; the number approved and not approved, respectively; the value of approved applications; the number of successful applicants that have and have not, respectively, received funding to date; and if additional funding will be required to meet the current demand for the scheme. [10686/20]
The Business Continuity Voucher scheme was launched on 26th March last as part of the suite of Covid 19 business supports. The purpose of the scheme was to provide expert guidance and advice to SMEs employing up 50 people and enable business owners make informed decisions about what immediate measures and remedial actions could be taken at the outset of this crisis, to protect staff and sales and eventually help the business recover.
The scheme was a resounding success in terms of uptake, the product of it being an appropriate support for that point in time. The Local Enterprise Offices have thus far approved 9,389 Business Continuity Vouchers to the value of almost €20.6m and had received 14,829 applications by the closing date. The LEOs will continue to work with existing applicants and recipients of BCV vouchers and their subsequent business continuity plans. The awarding and processing of vouchers under the BCV scheme will naturally taper off in the coming weeks as the Local Enterprise Offices process the outstanding applications.
The payment of the Business Continuity Voucher is dependent on the project being finished, invoice and project report submitted to LEO, with the LEO subsequently completing due diligence checks and processing by Local Authority Finance Units. Details on the take-up of the Vouchers is available on my Department's website at: .
Clearly the level of demand both for the scheme and the consequent budget drawdown has been unprecedented, with approvals to date to the value of €20.6m representing a substantial portion of the existing LEO budget for 2020. To date, in general, the new Covid-19 business support Schemes have been supported through both a reprioritisation of my Department's and our development agencies budgets for 2020 and through securing additional funding or commitments to fund for specific schemes. This is a continually evolving situation and my Department is continually reviewing take-up of schemes and the need for reallocations or additional budgets.
Business Continuity Voucher applicants who have been unsuccessful have been offered a range of other supports that they can avail of such as the Local Enterprise Office Mentor Programme. This programme is designed to enable clients to work with an experienced mentor to identify solutions to areas of exposure within their business. With advice and guidance from their mentor, clients develop strategies that are more robust, which address business planning issues and maximise potential business opportunities. These mentoring services are now free of charge.
Furthermore, Local Enterprise Offices have moved training programmes, workshops and networking meet-ups online, covering areas such as cash management in a crisis, leading your business through COVID-19 and advice for employers impacted by the crisis. Training programmes are offered completely free of charge or there is a nominal fee and places can be booked online, through this link: .
As the reopening of the economy proceeds, more and more businesses are transitioning from the planning to the implementation phase as we progress through the remaining stages of the Government Roadmap. It is in this context that the Business Continuity Voucher is being phased out and is now closed to new applicants. In recognition of this new stage the new €250m Restart Grant was introduced to assist micro and small businesses to help them with the costs associated with reopening and reemploying workers following COVID-19 closures.
414. To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if each application to the online retail scheme for businesses impacted by Covid-19 will be fully honoured; the amount of funding granted under the scheme to date against the original allocation; the number of applications to date; the number approved and not approved, respectively; the value of approved applications; the number of successful applicants that have and have not, respectively, received funding to date; if additional funding will be required to meet the current demand for the scheme; and if there will be another call for applications under the scheme. [10687/20]
As Chair of the Retail Consultation Forum, I am acutely aware that Covid-19 has brought particular challenges for retailers - large and small, across the country. Trading online is a very important route for retail businesses to grow and improve their business in the current crisis and will be an important element in their recovery over the longer term.
The objective of the €2 million Covid-19 Online Retail Scheme - a competitive scheme, administered on my Department's behalf by Enterprise Ireland, is to support companies in the indigenous retail sector who have already started an online journey, to further enhance and strengthen their online presence, which will have the most immediate impact enabling them to respond to both domestic and international consumer demand with a competitive online offer.
My Department proposed this Scheme in response to the COVID-19 crisis and the urgent need for retail companies to achieve a step change in online capability. Applicant companies must be an indigenous retailer, employing 10 or more people, have an existing online presence (e.g. website or social media), and have a retail outlet through which they derive the majority of their revenue. Successful applicants will be awarded funding to support a maximum of 80% of the project costs. Grants ranging from €10,000 to €40,000 will be awarded under the competitive scheme.
This Scheme is not about taking the first steps; it is about raising the bar, in an informed, planned and strategic way. Further details on this Scheme are available at .
The Scheme closed for applications at 3pm on 27 May 2020 and eligible applications are currently under assessment by Enterprise Ireland against the criteria specified in the Scheme. Once the assessment is complete I will be in a position to announce the successful applicants and the funding that has been allocated to them under this Call of the Covid-19 Online Retail Scheme.
The Deputy may be aware that I recently announced, with Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, Richard Bruton, a major expansion of the Trading Online Voucher Scheme to help small and micro enterprises, with up to 10 employees, including those in the retail sector, to get online quickly.
The Trading Online Voucher Scheme is being expanded by €14.2m after the Local Enterprise Offices received 3 years’ worth of applications in 3 months following the outbreak of COVID-19 in Ireland. Following a previous expansion of the Scheme in early April, total additional funding for the Scheme is now almost €20m in 2020.
Under the Scheme, small businesses can claim up to €5,000 in two vouchers worth €2,500 each. The Scheme also facilitates subscriptions to low-cost online retailing platform solutions to quickly establish a retailing presence online.
I am committed to supporting the needs of the retail sector in developing their online capability and enhancing their competitiveness and will continue to review supports in this particular area, working with the industry through the Retail Consultation Forum which I chair.
415. To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if she will consider matters raised in correspondence (details supplied); and the supports available to this sector from her Department. [10758/20]
The Government has introduced a €12bn package of supports for firms of all sizes, which includes the wage subsidy scheme, the pandemic unemployment payment for the self-employed, grants, low-cost loans, write-off of commercial rates and deferred tax liabilities, all of which will help to improve cashflow amongst SMEs. Full details on all COVID19 supports for business are available at: .
There are a number of grant and loan schemes which have been put in place to assist businesses. The Covid-19 Working Capital Scheme open to eligible SMEs and small mid-caps (businesses of up to 499 employees) is operated by the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) in cooperation with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and is supported by the InnovFin SME Guarantee facility.
The Future Growth Loan Scheme is open to eligible SMEs and small mid-caps currently makes loans available with a term of 8-10 years and is operated by (SBCI) through participating lenders. The Covid-19 Loan, available from Microfinance Ireland (MFI), supports microenterprises access funding arising from the Covid-19 crisis. The new €2 billion COVID-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme to aid SMEs is a further development of the existing Credit Guarantee Scheme already available. The Scheme will be available to all SME sectors, including primary producers. The implementation of this Scheme will require primary legislation, the drafting of which has commenced.
In addition to this new package of liquidity measures, 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.
I can assure the Deputy that I will continue to work with my colleagues across Government and with all stakeholders, to examine all such appropriate business supports to assist businesses impacted by Covid-19. In that regard, Government will continue to explore funding potential for all enterprises as they work through the challenges facing them, including through any further mechanisms allowable under the EU’s state aid framework.