Tuesday, 16 June 2020
Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation
Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
431. To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation her plans to support seasonal food businesses that need support to start takeaway services; her plans to support seasonal businesses that were closed in January and February 2020; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11204/20]
The Local Enterprise Offices are the ‘First Stop Shop’ for anyone seeking information about supports available for businesses. Located in the 31 Local Authorities Offices nationwide, the LEOs provide a ‘signposting’ service in relation to all relevant State supports available through agencies such as Revenue, the Department of Social Protection, Education and Training Boards, the Credit Review Office and Microfinance Ireland. The LEOs can also offer advice and guidance in areas such as Local Authority rates, Public Procurement and other regulations affecting business.
It should be noted that while seasonal food businesses do not qualify for grant support, there are however other supports available to the seasonal food sector. For example seasonal food businesses can benefit from training and development through the "Food Starter Programme" which is now being run remotely and the new e-hub called the "Digital School of Food" with all details available on the LEOs website at www.localenterprise.ie.
The Local Enterprise Office network also runs regular webinars in relation to supports for food businesses and I am including the following YouTube link to ‘Lunch & Learn’ webinar which took place recently. The theme was: Supports for Food & Drink Producers - .
I would urge seasonal food producers to talk to their Local Enterprise Offices regarding the supports available as they offer advice, training and mentoring which could be extremely beneficial to a business.
The full range of Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland, Local Enterprise Office (LEO) and Údarás na Gaeltachta grant supports will be available to firms to help with strategies to innovate, diversify markets and supply chains and to improve competitiveness. For seasonal businesses wishing to have an on-line presence, the Local Enterprise Office trading on-line voucher is designed to assist small businesses with up to 10 employees. It offers financial assistance of up to €2,500 along with training and advice to help your business trade online. It should however be noted that it is a requirement of the scheme that a business be operational for 6 months to be eligible to apply for this scheme.
My colleagues, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross and Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin TD, have recently established a special Tourism Recovery Taskforce with an Independent Chair, dedicated to spearheading economic recovery for the tourism sector and ancillary activities to prepare recommendations on how best the Irish tourism sector can adapt and recover and to identify priority aims, key enablers and market opportunities for the sector for the period 2020-2023.
432. To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if she will consider introducing additional financial supports for hospitality businesses in rural areas which have been closed during the Covid-19 pandemic in order to help them reopen in view of the fact they will not have the benefit of increased footfall due to location; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11210/20]
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 wage subsidy scheme, 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 .
The COVID-19 Working Capital Scheme which is offered in cooperation with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and is supported by the InnovFin SME Guarantee facility and is available to the hospitality sector. The scheme is operated by the SBCI. The Scheme is providing a fund of up to €250 million to eligible businesses that have been negatively affected by impacts arising from the outbreak of COVID-19 to enable those businesses to innovate, change or adapt in response to the current business environment. Following a further announcement, work is now under way on a significant expansion to this Scheme.
The scheme is open to eligible SMEs and small mid-caps (businesses of up to 499 employees) negatively impacted by COVID-19. Loans under the scheme range from €25,000 to €1.5m and are for periods of up to three years. The maximum interest rate under the scheme is 4% and loans of up to €500,000 are available unsecured.
The Future Growth Loan Scheme currently makes up to €300 million of loans available with a term of 8-10 years and is operated by the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) through participating lenders. We have seen strong demand for the scheme since its launch in April 2019, resulting in a rapid take up of the scheme. Funding made available by the scheme facilitates long-term, strategic investment.
The scheme is open to eligible SMEs and small mid-caps (businesses of up to 499 employees), including those in the primary agriculture and seafood sectors. Loans under the scheme range from €100,000 (€50,000 for farmers) to €3m per eligible business, with loans of up to €500,000 available unsecured. The initial maximum interest rate is capped at 4.5% for loans up to €249,999 and 3.5% for loans more than or equal to €250,000 for the first six months. These rates represent a significant saving compared with the prevailing rates that are otherwise being offered for similar loans on the market.
This scheme is being expanded by a further €200m to facilitate longer-term lending to COVID-19-impacted businesses and my Department is working through the details of this expansion and will bring this funding to market as soon as possible.
The COVID-19 Loan, available from Microfinance Ireland (MFI), was introduced as a support to microenterprises to help them access funding arising from the COVID-19 crisis.
These loans are available for eligible microenterprises responding to COVID-19-related difficulties, the negative impact of which must be a minimum of 15% of actual or projected income or profit. Loans up to €50,000 are available with terms that include a six months interest free and repayment free moratorium, with the loan to then be repaid over the remaining 30 months of the 36-month loan period.
An interest rate to 4.5% applies on the COVID-19 loans provided by MFI. This reduced rate is available to all micro-enterprises where the application is made through the Local Enterprise Network or referred by a bank or Local Development Committees. The new rate for direct applications to MFI is reduced to 5.5%. As these loans are available interest free for the first six months, the net effect is to further reduce the net interest rate payable over the period of the loan.
Government has agreed a new €2 billion COVID-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme, and this is a further development of the existing Credit Guarantee Scheme already available. This Scheme forms a major component of the government’s strategy to aid SMEs in these difficult times by providing critical support to ensure businesses are facilitated in having access to credit facilities to assist a return to a more regular trading environment. It will provide an 80% guarantee on lending to SMEs until the end of this year, for terms between 3 months and 6 years. The guarantee will be able to be used for a wide range of lending products between €10,000 and €1 million that have a maximum term of 6 years or less.
The Scheme will be available to all SME sectors including the hospitality sector and includes primary producers. It will also have interest rates below current market rates. The implementation of this Scheme will require primary legislation, the drafting of which has commenced.
There are a number of liquidity supports for COVID-19 impacted businesses available now, including the existing Credit Guarantee Scheme which was implemented in 2012, supporting loans up to €1 million for periods of up to 7 years. The scheme is designed to support a range of debt products appropriate to the borrowing needs of SMEs. An application to access the Credit Guarantee Scheme can be made through one of the participating lenders which are currently Allied Irish Banks, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank Ireland.
The Hospitality Sector would be eligible for all LEO supports including Lean and Mentoring. They are also eligible for a Trading Online Voucher provided they meet the following criteria:
- Limited or no e-commerce presence;
- 10 or less employees;
- Turnover less than €2m;
- Applicant business must be trading for at least 6 months;
- Business must be located in the area covered by the LEO to whom they make their application i.e. LEOs cannot accept applications from businesses located outside their jurisdiction. Regrettably they are not eligible for grant support.
- The €250m Restart Grant which is being administered by the local authorities, providing direct grant aid to micro and small businesses to help them with the costs associated with reopening and reemploying workers following COVID-19 closures.
- Eligible businesses who have stayed open throughout the crisis, as well as those who are reopening under Phase 1 (from 18thMay) and Phase 2 (8thJune) of the Government’s Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business, are encouraged to apply first for the Restart Grant. These applications will be prioritised for payment by the local authorities.
- To avail of the Restart Grant, applicants must be a commercial business and be in the Local Authorities Commercial Rates Payment System and:
- have an annual turnover of less than €5m and employ 50 people or less;
- have suffered a projected 25%+ loss in turnover between 1 April and end June 2020;
- commit to remain open or to reopen if it was closed;
- declare the intention to retain employees that are on The Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme.
The grant will be the amount of the rates demand in respect of calendar year 2019 only, subject to a minimum of €2,000 and a maximum of €10,000. The Restart Grant support is just one part of the wider €12bn package of supports for firms of all sizes, which includes grants, low-cost loans, write-off of commercial rates and deferred tax liabilities, all of which will help to improve cashflow amongst SMEs.
Further targeted supports specifically aimed at the tourism sector will be initiated and led by my colleague the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport who has recently formed a special Tourism Recovery Taskforce dedicated to spearheading economic recovery for the tourism sector. For further information see . 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 and will continue to keep the supports provided for enterprise under review.
On Friday, 15 May 2020, the Government decided to establish a new €250m Restart Grant providing direct grant aid to micro and small businesses to help them with the costs associated with reopening and reemploying workers following COVID-19 closures.
The funds for the Restart Grant were transferred by Enterprise Ireland to all local authorities on Wednesday 10 June and the payments are now being dispersed to applicants. As of Friday 12th June 2020, funding of €17.12m had issued to businesses under the scheme.
Applications for the Restart Grant can be made online directly to local authorities.
Further information on how to apply is available at: .