Written answers

Thursday, 3 June 2021

Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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206. To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the concerns being raised in respect of taxi operators access to microfinance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30340/21]

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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Since the onset of the pandemic, my Department has made loan supports available to businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19. These schemes will also support enterprises as they look towards rebuilding their business.  These loan schemes are available to SMEs which include microenterprises and sole traders such as taxi operators, subject to meeting eligibility criteria and being able to demonstrate that they are viable business operations and are in a position to repay the loan.

- The COVID-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme is the biggest ever state-backed loan guarantee in Ireland. The Scheme provides €2 billion in lending, for terms between three months and five-and-a-half years and offers a range of lending products between €10,000 and €1 million including working capital and term loan facilities. Loans of up to €250,000 are unsecured.  As a result of the high level of the State guarantee, loans are being provided at interest rates lower than the current market rate for similar loans.

- The COVID-19 Business Loan provides up to €25,000 to eligible micro-enterprises through Microfinance Ireland with zero repayments and zero interest for the first six months and the equivalent of an additional six months interest-free, subject to certain terms and conditions.  Microfinance Ireland also provides start-up business loans and loans for established businesses for up to €25,000 with interest rates of between 6.8% and 7.8%.

- The COVID-19 Working Capital Scheme makes lending available from participating lenders to eligible businesses. Loans available under the scheme range from €25,000 to €1.5 million and are for terms of up to three years. Loans are offered at favourable terms, including a maximum interest rate of 4% and no security on loans of up to €500,000.

- The Brexit Impact Loan Scheme is a new scheme which is being introduced in recognition of the additional effects of COVID-19 on Brexit impacted businesses. The Brexit Impact Loan Scheme will provide loans with terms of up to six years with loans to be made available for liquidity/working capital and investment purposes. Loans will range from €25,000 to €1.5m, with loans of up to €500,000 available unsecured. The Brexit Impact Loan Scheme will be launched in summer 2021 and will replace the existing Brexit Loan Scheme.

While the State provides funding or guarantees on these loans, the Department plays no role in the application or decision-making process in relation to loans offered under these schemes, which is fully delegated to the participating lenders.

Where an applicant has had a loan application refused, they may wish to appeal the decision through the individual lender’s appeals system. An appeal to the Credit Review Office (CRO) is a further option if the lender is a participating bank. The CRO helps SMEs who have had an application for credit of up to €3 million declined or reduced by the main banks. This is a strictly confidential process between the business, the CRO and the bank.

I can assure the deputy that officials from my Department are in regular contact with the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland and Microfinance Ireland, the operators of these schemes, to ensure the effective implementation of these schemes.

Photo of Anne RabbitteAnne Rabbitte (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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207. To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the scope for businesses (details supplied) that do not meet the staffing criteria to qualify for the online retail scheme to avail of the scheme; if there is a dispensation for such businesses; if there are alternative supports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30343/21]

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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Trading online is a very important route for retail businesses to grow and improve and will be an important element in their recovery over the longer term. 

The 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 the COVID-19 Online Retail 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 (eg website or social media), and have a retail outlet through which they derive the majority of their revenue. The Scheme was launched with an initial fund size of €2m. Due to significant levels of interest for the Scheme from eligible retailers and the particular challenges facing the retail sector during the pandemic, the funding available for Call 1 was increased. Under the first call 185 retailers were approved €6.6m in funding and under the second call 145 retailers were approved €5.3m in funding.

On 4 May this year, Minister of State English launched a new round of the COVID-19 Online Retail Scheme. Under this call €5 million will be made available to help Irish businesses to upgrade their websites and improve their competitiveness in online retail. The call closed on the 25 May. 

I understand Minister English will be examining the future role of the Online Retail Scheme in the coming weeks, including whether its scope can be expanded.

For retailers starting on the digital journey, Enterprise Ireland have put together a Starter Guide outlining the broad range of considerations to be addressed. A copy of the guide can be found on

For retail businesses that fall outside the criteria of the COVID-19 Online Retail Scheme, there are many other financial and non-financial supports available. These include services offered through the Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs).

The Trading Online Voucher Scheme, administered by the LEOs, offers financial assistance of up to €2,500 with co-funding of 50% from the business along with training and advice to help businesses trade online.

Businesses that have already received a Trading Online Voucher can now apply for a second voucher, where upgrades are required. Funding can be used towards adding payment facilities or booking systems to websites or developing new apps for customers. The voucher can also be used towards subscriptions to low-cost online retail platform solutions, to help companies quickly establish a retailing presence online. 

The vouchers are targeted at businesses with the following profile:

- 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 theirjurisdiction.

**applicant business must provide clear proof of trading for a minimum of 6 months to their Local Enterprise Office

I am committed to supporting the needs of the retail sector, through the Retail Forum, which is chaired by my colleague, Minister of State English, in developing their online capability and enhancing their competitiveness. 

The wide range of supports to help businesses impacted by the COVID-19 crisis can be found on the Department’s website


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