Government announces €1bn in supports for businesses

The Government has announced a major expansion of financial support for small- and medium-sized businesses impacted by the coronavirus crisis. It has introduced a range of new measures and an expansion of existing ones to aid SMEs and so-called micro businesses with the total value of supports estimated at €1 billion.

“This package is a significant step-up in the supports available for all businesses in all sectors at this very difficult time,” Minister for Business Heather Humphreys said. “The measures have been developed to meet the varying needs of Irish enterprise and they are very specifically targeted by size, sector and need.”

Among the measures announced were the expansion of two Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) loan schemes by €450 million to provide an extra €250 million for working capital and €200 million for longer-terms loans.

In addition, a new €180 million Sustaining Enterprise Fund for companies in the manufacturing and internationals services sectors is planned. It will be open to businesses that have suffered or expect to suffer a reduction in turnover or profits of 15 per cent or more, with up to €800,000 available to eligible businesses.

The Government also announced an extension of supports for online trading to €7.6 million, while funding for Microfinance Ireland has been increased to €20 million for Covid-19 loans carrying no interest or repayments for the first six months, and with rates cut from 7.8 per cent to 4.5 per cent.

Two other supports confirmed are a financial planning grant that offers up to €5,000 for companies looking to develop a new business plan and a €2,500 LEAN improvement grant for those looking to optimise their operations.

Free mentoring and online training are also available for all SMEs.

Enterprise Ireland will administer the suite of new supports and its chief executive Julie Sinnamon said the measures would help stabilise businesses, enable them to adapt to new ways of doing business, and position them for recovery once the crisis is over.

She said the coronavirus outbreak had had a significant impact on business with companies in some sectors seeing a collapse in demand, supply chain issues and cashflow challenges.

“We will help companies to plan and adapt their business models and roadmaps to recovery,” she said.

Ms Humphreys said further measures would be made available to businesses in the coming months.

“I want to reiterate to firms that we will continue to use all available tools at our disposal to support them and keep money flowing through the economy in the difficult months ahead,” she said.

Business group Ibec welcomed the additional supports and the signalling that more would be forthcoming. It advised, in particular, of the need for further help for mid-sized companies, saying they also face liquidity challenges.

“The current flexibility in EU state aid rules means that Government can do much more than in normal times to get exceptionally low-cost credit directly to businesses and we look forward to seeing further measures in this regard,” said director of policy and public affairs Fergal O’Brien.

Separately, Revenue on Wednesday confirmed it has implemented an EU Commission decision that allows the import of goods to combat Covid-19 from outside the EU, free of import duties and VAT.

Charlie Taylor
Irish Times