Thursday, 17 December 2020
Department of Rural and Community Development
43. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development if she has explored the role that LEADER companies can play in supporting small rural business to overcome the challenges posed by Covid-19; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [42231/20]
The LEADER programme is delivered through 29 Local Action Groups (LAGs) across rural Ireland. The programme includes a specific funding Theme to support Rural Economic Development, Enterprise Development and Job Creation. A total of 2,339 projects have been approved for €86 million under this Theme since the current LEADER programme became operational, effectively in 2016.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic specifically, the LAGs, in conjunction with Local Development Companies who act as Implementing Partners in most areas, have approved 664 projects under this Theme, to the value of €30 million. The type of monetary supports provided include direct capital for construction and purchase of equipment, analysis and development type projects, and marketing and training projects. These projects will bring much needed assistance to small businesses at this time, as well as supporting job retention and new employment opportunities.
Yesterday, 16th December, I announced details of the Transitional LEADER Programme which will bridge the gap between the end of the current programme and the start of the next EU programme in 2023.
As part of this announcement, and in recognition of the challenges faced by rural businesses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit, I also approved an increase in the rate of aid from a maximum of 50% to a maximum of 75% for private enterprises and commercial projects. This increase will further support and aid small rural businesses as we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, and fulfils a commitment in the Programme for Government.
The announcement is additional to a range of supports that the Government has already announced to help businesses to cope with the impact of COVID-19. Full details of these business supports are available on the Gov.ie website.