FINANCIAL SUPPORTS

I have heard that a number of financial supports for businesses have been announced by Government. Where can I find details of these supports?

The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation has published a Supports for Businesses Impacted by COVID-19 booklet which outlines some practical steps you can take. To contact the Department’s Business Support Call Centre, please call 01 631 2002 or email infobusinesssupport@dbei.gov.ie

The Government has agreed a suite of measures to further support small, medium and larger business that are negatively impacted by COVID-19. These measures (listed here) are being put in place to aid the economy as the COVID-19 restrictions start to be lifted.

Details of a new €250m Restart Grant has also been agreed by Government. This will give direct grant aid to micro and small businesses to help them with the costs associated with reopening and reemploying workers following COVID-19 closures. Details include:

  • Direct grant aid of between €2,000 minimum and €10,000 based on commercial rates bill from 2019.
  • Scheme applies to small businesses with a turnover of under €5m and employing 50 people or less.
  • Scheme is open for applications through the Local Authorities.

Enterprise Ireland have also published a COVID-19 Business Response Plan outlining guidelines and supports available to Enterprise Ireland clients, some of which may be relevant to you.

The Local Enterprise Office has launched a Business Continuity Voucher which is designed for businesses across every sector that employ up to 50 people. It is worth up to €2,500 for third-party consultancy costs and can be used by companies and sole traders to develop short-term and long-term strategies to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. If your application is successful, a qualified expert will be selected by your Local Enterprise Office to work with you on your business continuity plans.

The Local Enterprise Office have moved training programmes, workshops and networking meet-ups online, covering areas such as cash management in a crisis, leading your business through COVID-19 and advice for employers impacted by the crisis. To find out more telephone or email your Local Enterprise Office.  

National COVID-19 Income Support Scheme

The Government has announced a National COVID-19 Income Support Scheme to provide financial support to Irish workers and companies affected by the crisis. 

This scheme includes:

  • The introduction of a Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) to provide income support to eligible employees where the employer’s business activities have been negatively impacted by COVID-19.
  • Workers who have lost their jobs due to the crisis will receive an enhanced emergency COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment. Since 29 June, this is paid at two rates.
  • The COVID-19 illness payment will also be increased to €350 per week.
  • The self-employed will be eligible for the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment of €350 directly from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (rather than the Revenue scheme).

If you have employees, key supports you should be aware of include the following:

Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS)

The Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) provides income support to eligible employees where the employer’s business activities have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. The aim of the scheme is to maximise staff retention and firm viability by providing a wage subsidy to eligible employers and maintaining the link between the employer and employee. The TWSS is running until end of August.

It is acknowledged that as the scheme was developed at speed there were imperfections and anomalies arising, including for lower-paid employees. Note therefore that changes to this scheme were announced on 15 April:

These apply to those earning less than €500 per week (approx. €31,000) as well as those earning in excess of €586 per week (€38,000):

Employees with net pay less than €586 per week (€38,000):

  • for those employees with previous average net pay less than €412 per week (equivalent to almost €24,400) the subsidy will be increased from 70% to 85% of their previous net weekly pay
  • for those employees with previous average net pay between €412 and €500 per week (equivalent to €24,400-€31,000), the subsidy will be up to €350 per week

In addition, where an employer wishes to pay a greater level of top-up – beyond the outstanding 15% of previous pay – (in respect of employees with net pay less than €412 per week) in order to bring the employee’s pay to €350 per week then tapering would not be applied to the subsidy.

For employees whose previous average net pay was between €500 and €586 per week (equivalent to €31,000-€38,000): there are no changes and they will continue to receive a subsidy of up to 70% of previous net income, up to a maximum of €410 per week.

For employees with previous net pay in excess of €586 per week (equivalent to €38,000): a tiered approach will apply. The maximum subsidy payable for these remains €350 per week. 

The wage subsidy is now available to support employees where the average net pre-COVID-19 salary was greater than €76,000, and their gross post-COVID salary has fallen below €76,000. The tiered arrangement applicable to gross incomes in excess of €38,000 will apply in such circumstances.

These changes will apply for payroll with a pay date on or after the 4 May and received by the Revenue Commissioners on or after that date (no back-dating of increased subsidy will apply). There is no change to the qualification criteria for employers.

Full details on this latest announcement from the Department of Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform are here and on Revenue here. An FAQ document by Revenue providing guidance on operating the TWSS is available here.

Short-Time Work Support

Employees of businesses that need to reduce hours or days worked can avail of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection Short-time Work Support.

COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

For those workers who have been laid off without pay, there is no need to visit an Intreo Centre. The DEASP has introduced a new support payment for the self-employed who have lost business and to those who have lost employment as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment. (See below.)

Further details on Government supports can be found on the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation’s website here.

What is the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment and who is eligible for it?

As part of the Government’s response to the COVID-19 national emergency, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection has introduced the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) for anyone whose employer is unable to continue to pay them. This new payment is available to all employees and the self-employed who have lost employment due to a downturn in economic activity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The PUP is scheduled to continue until at least Phase 5 of the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business, currently scheduled to begin on 10 August 2020.

Since Phase 3 of the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business (29 June), COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment is paid at two rates, aligned to prior earnings. For those whose prior employment earnings were €200 per week or higher, the rate remains at €350 per week. For those whose prior employment earnings were up to €199.99 per week, the rate is €203 per week (the primary rate of payment of the Jobseeker's Benefit scheme). If you are currently in receipt of the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment, you need to confirm your continued eligibility for this payment by 13 July. For the latest updates, visit www.mywelfare.ie

What Government supports are available for working capital?

Some supports that have been made available may be relevant and appropriate to your business. The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation has published a Supports for Businesses Impacted by COVID-19 booklet which outlines some practical steps you can take.

The Credit Guarantee Scheme supports loans up to €1 million for periods of up to 7 years. Applications can be made to AIB, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank. Eligibility criteria apply. See Credit Guarantee Scheme for COVID-19 FAQs page here for more information.

Microenterprises can access COVID-19 loans of up to €50,000 from MicroFinance Ireland. Loans are available at an interest rate of 4.5% for LEO applications (5.5% for direct applications) and there is an option for a moratorium on interest and repayments for the first six months. Businesses can apply through their Local Enterprise Office or directly at microfinanceireland.ie. Eligibility criteria apply. 

There has been an expansion of the €2,500 Trading Online Voucher Scheme through the LEOs for microenterprises. Businesses can now apply for a second voucher of up to €2,500 where they have successfully utilised their first one, where upgrades are required.

For businesses with more than 10 employees, a new €2m COVID-19 Retail Online Scheme is available through Enterprise Ireland. This is exclusively for indigenous retail businesses. There are new supports to assist companies planning for the future. A Business Financial Planning Grant from Enterprise Ireland to the value of €5,000 is available to assist companies to develop a Business Sustainment Plan and to engage the services of an approved Financial Consultant. A new €2,500 LEAN Business Continuity Voucher from Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland is available to help companies quickly access advice and training support related to continued business operation during the current pandemic. The new Sustaining Enterprise Fund of up to €180 million is specifically aimed at firms impacted by COVID-19 that are vulnerable but viable. The fund is operated by Enterprise Ireland, providing repayable advances of up to €800,000 as agreed with the EU under new State Aid rules. Enterprise Ireland is also administering a specific Sustaining Enterprise Fund for Small Enterprises. This fund will provide a €25k to €50k short-term funding injection to eligible smaller companies. More information on all Enterprise Ireland COVID-19 supports is available here.

The €450m SBCI COVID-19 Working Capital Scheme for eligible businesses supports loans from €25,000 up to €1.5 million (first €500,000 can be unsecured) with a maximum interest rate of 4%. Further information and application details are on the SBCI website at here. Eligibility criteria apply.

There is an additional €500m in COVID-19 funding for the Future Growth Loan Scheme, which will be released in tranches, to provide longer-term loans to COVID-19 impacted businesses. Loan amounts range €100,000 to a maximum of €3,000,000 per applicant (first €500,000 can be unsecured). Interest-only repayments may be available at the start of the loans. The maximum interest rate will be 4.5%.

Further information on Government supports is available here.

What supports are available for bank borrowers?

The Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure & Reform, Paschal Donohoe T.D. has outlined measures to support individuals and businesses impacted by COVID-19. A range of supports have been proposed by the Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) which are to be discussed with the Central Bank. 

For SME customers these proposals include extensive supports where banks are working to ensure that a wide range of credit, cash flow and supply chain supports are offered to businesses who are trying to manage the pressures arising from COVID-19. A deferral of up to three months on loan repayments will be of assistance to many businesses. In addition, the banks are adopting a customer-focused approach to these businesses with a wide variety of tailored supports including extensions of credit lines, risk guarantees, and trade finance. The BPFI have published an FAQs webpage for business bank customers impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. This is available here.

Customers facing difficulties due to COVID-19 are urged to contact their bank as soon as possible to make alternative arrangements that will assist them to come through this difficult period. Central Bank of Ireland has also published a COVID-19 Information FAQ hub here.

I’m concerned about my ability to pay my tax returns. What can I do?

Revenue has posted advice for businesses experiencing trading difficulties as a result of COVID-19. This includes information on tax returns, the application of late payment interest, debt enforcement, tax clearance and customs.