Thursday, 17 December 2020
Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment
Covid-19 Pandemic Supports
237. To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the extent to which he remains satisfied regarding the continued availability of Covid-related supports in the services and manufacturing sectors particularly in the event of any further surge in the virus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44642/20]
We know the significant effects on business of the current Level 3 restrictions. 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. It is in addition to the July Stimulus measures, including the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme, Restart Grant Plus, cash for businesses, low cost loans and commercial rates waivers.
We have changed the PUP and the EWSS by increasing the top rate to €350 for those who were earning in excess of €400 per week.
My colleague, Minister Heather Humphreys T.D., Minister for Social Protection, recently announced the doubling of the PUP threshold to €960 over an eight-week period. This will assist those trying to restart their businesses and allows self-employed people to take on intermittent jobs without losing their PUP entitlement.
Also launched in Budget 2021, the Revenue Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS), 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. Additional seasonal support will be provided to qualifying businesses remaining closed due to COVID public health restrictions.
A six-month reduction in VAT was introduced. Reduced from 23% to 21%, and 13.5% down to 9% respectively. This will benefit the hospitality, entertainment and hairdressing sectors, together with a range of additional public capital investment measures to support the domestic economy.
We are continuing to see strong take-up of the range of supports available for businesses, in particular of the cheaper loan finance through MicroFinance Ireland, SBCI and the new €2bn Credit Guarantee Scheme.
There has also been a surge in applications for Enterprise Ireland’s Sustaining Enterprise Fund, the non-repayable grant element of that Scheme is proving particularly attractive to company’s seeking urgent working capital.
The Local Enterprise Offices’ Online Trading Voucher Scheme, which offers skills training, mentoring and financial support of up to €2,500 to help small and micro-businesses to develop their ecommerce capability, has also proven to be very popular. As of 9th December this Scheme has seen 15,180 applications and 12,183 approvals this year to a value of €28.8m. The LEOs also offer mentoring and training programmes. There have been 10,582 participants in the Mentoring Programme and 51,398 participants in the COVID training programmes.
We are investing in a range of working capital and longer-term funding options for SMEs, with strong demand for medium- and long-term finance through Credit Guarantee Scheme and Future Growth Loan Schemes, at interest rates of below 4% p.a.
The level of support now being provided to businesses across all sectors is unprecedented and ahead of that available in other jurisdictions. Our focus is to ensure the safety of our people and guide our economy towards recovery by ensuring that we had an appropriate mix of supports in place to support workers and businesses in moving between the levels of the Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19.