Written answers

Thursday, 15 October 2020

Department of Trade, Enterprise and Employment

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Photo of Peadar TóibínPeadar Tóibín (Meath West, Aontú)
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34. To ask the Minister for Trade, Enterprise and Employment if a grant to cover the fixed costs of enterprises that have been forced to close due to the Covid-19 pandemic will be provided. [29969/20]

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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As part of Budget 2021, we announced on Tuesday the new COVID Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) to provide targeted support for businesses. The scheme is designed to assist those businesses whose trade has been significantly impacted or temporarily closed as a result of the restrictions as set out in the Government’s ‘Living with COVID-19’ Plan. The scheme will generally operate when Level 3 or higher is in place and will cease when restrictions are lifted.

The Government will make a payment to eligible businesses, based on their 2019 average weekly turnover, to provide support at a difficult time and will be worth up to €5,000 per week.

The scheme will apply to business premises where the Government restrictions directly prohibit or restrict access by customers.

The scheme will be effective from 13thOctober until 31st March 2021, and the first payments will be made to affected businesses by mid-November.

On 23rdJuly 2020 I announced that in order to further support enterprises as the economy reopens and resumes activity, additional grant funding of €300m would be provided to businesses through an enhanced Restart Grant Plus scheme. The Restart Grant Plus scheme was designed primarily to help businesses which haven’t reopened yet and those struggling to do so. The Government carefully assessed the immediate needs of businesses and responded with a package of scale and speed to meet their most crucial needs.

This additional €300m provided in the July Jobs Stimulus package allowed further categories of businesses to benefit in that businesses impacted by a 25% reduction in turnover due to COVID-19 restrictions or downturn in trade will be eligible provided they commit to reopening and to hiring and sustaining employment.

Businesses that had to close their premises or had a serious downturn in business because their premises were not safe for employees and customers would have suffered significant losses during the early stages of the pandemic but would also have incurred ongoing costs and had additional costs associated with reopening and adapting their premises to make them suitable for workers and customers.

The grant is a contribution towards the cost of re-opening or keeping a business operational and re-connecting with employees and customers. The grant could be used to defray ongoing fixed costs, e.g. utilities, insurance, refurbishment or for restocking and measures to ensure employee and customer safety.

The closing date for the Restart Grant Plus scheme has also been extended to 31stOctober 2020 in order to make the scheme accessible to as many businesses as possible and particularly to those who have endured further restrictions in accordance with the Government’s Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19. Further information on top-up amounts and application forms are available on the websites of all Local Authorities.

The Restart Grant Plus is just one part of the wider range of schemes available to firms of all sizes, which includes low-cost loans, write-off of commercial rates and deferred tax liabilities, all of which will help to improve cashflow amongst SMEs.

Since the onset of COVID-19, my Department has worked to ensure that there are appropriate responses is in place to assist businesses that have been impacted by the economic disruptions arising as a result of the pandemic.

My Department has worked with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to develop three Government-guaranteed loan schemes operated by the SBCI and delivered through participating finance providers.

Each of these schemes provides support to COVID-19-impacted businesses depending on their needs:

COVID-19 Working Capital Scheme:

This scheme makes available working capital loans ranging from €25,000 to €1.5m to eligible businesses exposed to COVID-19-related impacts. Loans of under €500,000 are available unsecured. Loans under this scheme are available for terms of up three years to help businesses to innovate, change or adapt in response to the pandemic. These innovations may include adjustments to ensure that a business can continue to operate safely.

COVID-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme:

This scheme makes up to €2 billion in lending available to eligible businesses. Loans under the Scheme range from €10,000 to €1m. Loans of up to €250,000 under the Scheme are available unsecured (except where this is a requirement of the product feature, as in the case of asset finance, invoice discount facilities, etc). Its focus is to provide additional liquidity to businesses in a wide range of sectors including primary producers and small mid-caps (employing up to 500). Loans under this scheme are for terms of up to five-and-a-half years. Resulting from the 80 percent Government guarantee, businesses will be able to avail of loans at reduced interest rates.

Future Growth Loan Scheme:

This scheme has recently been expanded and now makes up to €800m in lending available to eligible businesses to support long-term, strategic investment, including in response to COVID-19. Loans under the scheme range from €25,000 to €3m and are for terms of 7-10 years. Loans of under €500,000 are available unsecured.

Micro-enterprises that have been negatively affected by the onset of COVID-19 may also be eligible for lending from MicroFinance Ireland under its own COVID-19 loan scheme:

MicroFinance IrelandCOVID-19 Business Loan:

Loans under this scheme range from €5,000 to €25,000 and are available with zero repayments and zero interest for the first six months, with the equivalent of an additional six months interest-free subject to certain terms and conditions. Loan terms are typically up to three years.

All COVID-19 Business Schemes are under constant review in terms of the evolving situation and will be adapted as circumstances dictate. I can assure the Deputy that I will continue to work with my colleagues across Government and all stakeholders to examine how best to further assist businesses impacted by COVID-19 in the context of Budget 2021 and later as part of the forthcoming National Economic Plan.

For a full list of assistance for business please see .

Photo of Niamh SmythNiamh Smyth (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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35. To ask the Minister for Trade, Enterprise and Employment the supports for sectors most affected by Covid-19 in particular the hospitality sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30564/20]

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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Budget 2021, together with the measures we announced as part of the July Stimulus, provide a substantial financial package to stimulate our economy and to help businesses to open.

In July, the Government introduced the €7bn July Stimulus 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 to assist with restructuring as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The range of measures in place to assist businesses include direct grants to support viable businesses and jobs, including new hire and restructuring. The wage subsidy scheme has been extended into 2021 and will be open to firms that do not currently participate. It will also be open to workers like seasonal workers who were not previously included. From 1st September, the six-month reduction in the VAT came into effect, going down from 23% to 21%.

This week's Budget contains targeted actions to help business where they are hurting most. The 9% VAT rate will help hotels, pubs, restaurants and other businesses in the entertainment, tourism and hospitality sectors. The extension of the commercial rates holiday will help reduce the fixed cost of doing business. The new CRSS programme will provide closed or effectively closed business a payment based on their turnover up to €5,000 per week. This will make a really big difference and will be paid in addition to the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS).

SMEs may be eligible for the Government's new Restart Grant Plus Scheme. Those businesses that accessed funding through the previous round of the scheme are eligible to apply for a second payment or a top-up due to the Level 3 restrictions to a total combined value of the revised maximum grant level through their local authority.

We are providing more and cheaper loan finance through MicroFinance Ireland, SBCI and the new €2bn Credit Guarantee Scheme.

The full range of Enterprise Ireland, 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 to finance, commence or ramp-up online trading activity, reconfigure business models, cut costs, innovate, diversify markets and supply chains and to improve competitiveness.

I continue to work with my colleagues across Government to assist businesses impacted by COVID-19 and to help businesses get Brexit ready.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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36. To ask the Minister for Trade, Enterprise and Employment the reason the closing date for the original restart grant was brought forward three weeks without warning; if in view of the severity of the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, he will ensure that all eligible businesses will be paid both the restart grant and the restart plus grant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30262/20]

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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The Restart grant scheme was launched on 22nd May and was live on all local authority websites from 29 May. It was advertised extensively both nationally and locally as well as across social media. By mid-June, almost 30,000 applications were received nationally. By the end of July, some 45,000 applications had been received.

The Scheme was initially intended to provide grants in tandem with the phased re-opening of the economy as per the Government’s Roadmap. As the Roadmap was accelerated, so too was the scheme as it was made available to all eligible businesses and sectors.

The numbers of applications nationally had begun to taper off at the same time as the Government was considering introducing an expanded Restart Scheme with higher grant levels. Under the expanded scheme, the minimum grant is €4,000 (up from €2,000) and the new maximum grant is €25,000 (up from €10,000). The new scheme also has different criteria to the old scheme.

As the Government decided to introduce the higher grant levels, to the benefit of a much larger group of businesses, it was decided to end the original scheme. It would not make sense to run two similar schemes, with different criteria and grant levels, as it would only cause confusion for applicants and those administering the scheme alike.

In terms of eligible businesses which for any reason did not apply for the first phase of the scheme prior to its closure, applications can now be made to their Local Authority in respect of both schemes.

Applicants who received a grant under the first Restart Scheme can apply again for a second grant by submitting a Declaration Form to their Local Authority. Further information can be obtained on the websites of all Local Authorities.

The closing date for the Restart Grant Plus scheme has been extended to 31st October 2020 in order to make the scheme accessible to as many businesses as possible and particularly to those who have endured further restrictions in accordance with the Government’s Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19.

All COVID-19 Business Schemes are under constant review in terms of the evolving situation and will be adapted as circumstances dictate and I can assure the Deputy that I will continue to work with my colleagues across Government and all stakeholders to examine how best to further assist businesses impacted by COVID-19 in the context of Budget 2021 and later as part of the forthcoming National Economic Plan.

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