Covid-19: Irish Business Support Mechanisms

Out-Law Guide | 02 Jun 2020 | 3:39 pm | 10 min. read

The Irish Government has been developing and announcing a range of measures aimed at supporting the economy, businesses and workers in Ireland.

  1. Employment supports
    1. Covid-19 Illness Benefit
    2. Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme
    3. Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment
  2. Commercial Rates
  3. Support for Small Businesses
    1. SME Credit Guarantee Scheme
    2. SBCI Covid-19 Working Capital Scheme
    3. Enterprise Ireland's Support
    4. Sustaining Enterprise Fund
    5. Microfinance Loans
  4. Revenue Information and Advice
  5. Insurance
  6. Mortgage/Loan Holidays
  7. Companies Registration Office (CRO)
  8. Planning & Development

Covid-19 Illness Benefit

Policy

Covid-19 Illness Benefit of €350 per week from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection ("DEASP"). Available for up to 2/10 weeks.

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for the Covid-19 Illness Benefit, you must be: self-isolating on the instruction of a doctor or the HSE; or diagnosed with Covid-19; and be absent from work and confined to your home or a medical facility.

How to apply

Apply online at mywelfare.ie; or download an application form and return it by post; or call the DEASP for an application form and submit the relevant medical certificate, text or letter from the HSE depending on your specific circumstances.

Further information

Covid-19 Illness Benefit

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Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme

Policy

The Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (the "Scheme") where Revenue will refund eligible employers between 70-85% of an employee's average net weekly pay ("ANWP") up to a maximum weekly net amount of €350/€410 per week per eligible employee (depending on the employee's ANWP, implemented through ROS. The Scheme is being implemented in two phases. Phase 1 from 26 March and Phase 2 which will apply for payroll with a pay date on or after 4 May and received by Revenue on or after that date. The Scheme is available for up to 12 weeks.

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for the Scheme, an employers' business must have been adversely affected (at least a 25% reduction either in the turnover of the employer’s business or in customer orders being received by the employer) by Covid-19 with the result that the employer is unable to pay their employees their usual pay; the employer must intend to continue to employ the employee (and to pay them); and the employer must have registered for the scheme (or the previous Covid Refund Scheme) with Revenue on ROS. The employee must have been on payroll on 29 February 2020. Revenue have also advised that an "alternative basis" test may be applied where application of the "turnover" and "customer orders" tests do not adequately demonstrate a negative economic disruption. From 16 April, the Scheme is available to support employees whose ANWP was greater than €960 pre-Covid but their current gross pay is below €960 per week, subject to a tiered arrangement and tapering.

How to apply

Log on to ROS my Enquiries and select the category ‘Covid-19: Temporary Wage Subsidy’; read the Self-Declaration and submit if applicable and ensure bank account details entered are correct.

Further information

The Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme

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Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Policy

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment of €350 per week from the DEASP. Available for up to 12 weeks.

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible you must be: aged between 18-66 years old; and live in ROI; and lost your job due to Covid-19 pandemic; or been temporarily laid off due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The payment also applies to the self-employed, non EU/EEA workers, students and part-time workers.

How to apply

Apply online at mywelfare.ie or download an application form and return it by post; or call the DEASP for an application form.

Further information

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

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Commercial Rates

Policy

The Government has agreed with local authorities that they should agree to defer rates payments due from the most immediately impacted businesses - primarily in the retail, hospitality, leisure and childcare sectors, for three months, until the end of May 2020. This measure will be implemented by each local authority in its own area.

Eligibility Criteria

The eligibility criteria is not yet fully clear but any commercial ratepayers that have had to temporarily close or significantly curtail operations during the Covid-19 response period are encouraged contact their local authority immediately in relation to any rates payments falling due in the period to the end of May 2020.

How to apply

The contact details for Dublin City Council's rates office are here, for example. A list of all local authorities in Ireland can be found here.

Further information

Further details of the scheme can be found at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government website.

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SME Credit Guarantee Scheme

Policy

The SME Credit Guarantee Scheme designed to encourage additional lending to SMEs by offering a partial Government guarantee (currently 80%) to banks against losses on qualifying loans (between €10,000 and €1m) to eligible SMEs impacted by Covid-19 related issues.

Eligibility Criteria

Targeted towards companies who are unable to access credit because of three distinct barriers to lending; (i) inadequate collateral; (ii) novel business market, sector or technology perceived as high risk under current credit risk evaluation practices; and (iii) need for refinancing caused by the exit of an SME's lender from the Irish market.

How to apply

Approach a participating lender (currently, Ulster Bank, Bank of Ireland and AIB).

Further information

SME Credit Guarantee Scheme.

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SBCI Covid-19 Working Capital Scheme

Policy

The Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) Covid-19 Working Capital Scheme aimed at providing eligible SMEs with loans of €25,000 to €1.5m with a fixed interest rate of no more than 4% for the term of the loan. The total funding on offer has been increased to €450m. The SBCI's pre-existing Future Growth Loan Scheme has also been bolstered with an extra €200m of funding with the aim of providing longer term loans to Covid-19 impacted businesses.

Eligibility Criteria

SMEs to:

  1. have fewer than 250 employees;
  2. have turnover of < €50m;
  3. not be part of a wider group;
  4. have < 25% capital held by public bodies; and
  5. is established and operating in the Republic of Ireland. Exclusions include those prohibited by EU state aid rules, such as SMEs in the primary agriculture and/or aquaculture sector.

How to apply

The SBCI website

Further information

SBCI Covid-19 Working Capital Scheme.

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Enterprise Ireland's Support

Policy

Enterprise Ireland's Business Response Supports for matters related to the crisis, including a Business Financial Planning Grant worth up to €5,000, access up to €2,500 in training or advisory services support via a Lean Business Continuity Voucher and grants to hire key consultants or workers to navigate the turbulence.

Eligibility Criteria

Eligibility is variable depending on the support but aimed at indigenous businesses already within the Enterprise Ireland umbrella.

How to apply

Different application routes apply depending on the support required but an index of all supports and contact details can be found here.

Further information

Enterprise Ireland's Supports.

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Sustaining Enterprise Fund

Policy

Enterprise Ireland has also launched a new EU-backed Sustaining Enterprise Fund to provide manufacturing and internationally traded services companies with capital to help stabilise and rebuild their businesses. This is aimed at both SMEs and larger businesses with repayable funding of up to €800,000 available.

Eligibility Criteria

Need to have 10 or more employees. SMEs need to have applied for funding from a financial institution, including through the SBCI Covid-19 Working Capital/Future Growth Loan Schemes. Larger businesses need to have applied for funding from a financial institution. A Business Sustainment Plan will need to be submitted.

How to apply

Sustaining Enterprise Fund - [email protected]

Further information

Sustaining Enterprise Fund

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Microfinance Loans

Policy

Microfinance Ireland Loans available from Microfinance Ireland will be increased from €25,000 to €50,000 as an immediate measure to specifically deal with exceptional circumstances that microenterprises are facing in light of Covid-19. Interest rates have dropped from 7.8% to 4.5%.

Eligibility Criteria

Available to any microenterprise (sole trader, partnership or limited company) who is currently trading, unable to secure bank finance and is losing at least 15% of actual or projected turnover or profit as a result of Covid-19.

How to apply

Microfinance Ireland – talk to an advisor at a local enterprise office, register on their website or talk to one of their loan advisors on +353 (0) 1 260 1007.

Further information

Microfinance loans

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Revenue Information and Advice

Policy

The Irish Revenue Commissioners have provided useful guidance on compliance with certain reporting and filing obligations during the Covid-19 crisis, including clarifying that a benefit-in-kind will not arise where employers provide equipment such as laptops, printers, scanners and office furniture in order for employees to set up a working space in their homes. Guidance and relief has also been provided for businesses struggling with cash-flow, such as late payment interest being suspended for March/April VAT and April PAYE (employers') liabilities.

Eligibility Criteria

All Irish businesses.

How to apply

N/A

Further information

Revenue guidance on reporting and filing obligations.

Revenue guidance for business with cash-flow issues.

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Insurance

Policy

The Government has stated its position that it believes businesses that have insurance cover for pandemics and Government-ordered closure should be covered by the announcements that the Government has made on the subject of social distancing and Government recommended closure (as opposed to Government ordered closure).

The Central Bank of Ireland ("CBI") has issued a letter to the CEOs of insurance undertakings setting out its expectations of insurers in light of Covid-19. The CBI has indicated that where there is a grey area in terms of a policyholders' ability to recover on account of Covid-19 then the claim should be settled in favour of the policyholder.

There is a lot of commentary in Ireland about the ability of policyholders to recover on account of Covid-19 (particularly in respect of business interruption policies). Businesses are encouraged to check the terms and conditions of their specific policy and contact their providers.

Eligibility Criteria

N/A

How to apply

N/A

Further information

CBI communication regarding recovery under insurance policies on account of Covid-19.

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Mortgage/Loan Holidays

Policy

The Irish domestic banks and main retail credit firms and credit servicing firms have announced that they will provide flexibility to their customers and will provide three-month payment moratoria or interest payments only on mortgages, and personal and business loans for some business and personal customers affected by Covid-19 and the deferment of court proceedings for three months.

On 30 April 2020, it was confirmed that a further three-month extension to the current payment break will be made available to customers that continue to be directly impacted by the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic. The extension will allow impacted personal and business customers a payment break of up to six months in total and the same extension arrangement will also be available to Covid-19 impacted customers who may yet apply for a payment break.

The BPFI have confirmed that there will be no impact to the Central Credit Register (CCR) credit records of customers who avail of a three month payment break as a result of being financially impacted by Covid-19. On 30 April, the Central Bank of Ireland confirmed that a payment break of six months will not specifically be identified on the borrower’s credit report recorded on the CCR.  

Eligibility Criteria

A payment holiday will be available to all customers who are up to date on their mortgage/ loan payments and who satisfy certain other criteria specified by the relevant lender.

A payment holiday may also be available to Buy-to-Let landlords whose tenants have lost income because of the impact of Covid-19. Landlords can pass on this relief to their tenants to ensure that they are supported during this time.

Customers will still owe the money where a payment holiday has been granted and interest will still accrue.

A payment break will give rise to higher repayments spread out over the remaining term of the loan/ mortgage.

How to apply

Customers should contact their lenders for more information.

Further information

Further details of the scheme can be found at the Central Bank of Ireland

Further details of the scheme can also be found at Banking & Payments Federation of Ireland

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Companies Registration Office (CRO)

Policy

Online filing remains unaffected but the CRO has paused hard-copy filing and processing, is not accepting courier deliveries and its public office is closed. Normal post should still be deliverable but will not be processed. Signature pages for annual returns and accounts due from 19 March 2020, which need to be physically delivered, will be treated as received on time if received on or before close of business on 31 October 2020 (date under ongoing review). E-mail processing of annual returns can still be undertaken by sending to [email protected]; summary approval procedure documents can be sent to [email protected]; and other e-mails are being monitored through [email protected]

Eligibility Criteria

Applicable to all Irish companies whose annual returns are due from 19 March 2020 until 31 October 2020.

How to apply

N/A

Further information

 The CRO is also issuing regular updates through its Twitter and LinkedIn pages.

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Planning & Development

Policy

Planning and building control systems remain open for business (for limited hours). However the Government has introduced specific measures via the planning laws to support businesses, the public health response, and the planning system itself. The measures include that:

  • statutory time periods for processing planning applications within the Planning Acts has been extended by 56 days to 23 May 2020;
  • planning authorities are recommended to defer all public meetings on all Development Plans, Development Plan Variations and Local Area Plans for the same 56 day period; and
  • change of use from a restaurant to a takeaway would not require planning consent for the period of the emergency.

 

Eligibility Criteria

N/A

How to apply

N/A

Further information

Further details of the scheme can be found at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government website.

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