Covid-19: Irish Business Support Mechanisms

Out-Law Guide | 16 Oct 2020 | 10:33 am | 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. Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme
    3. Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment
  2. Commercial Rates
  3. VAT Reduction
  4. Support for Small Businesses
    1. Covid-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme
    2. Microfinance Ireland Covid-19 Business Loans
    3. SBCI Covid-19 Working Capital Scheme
    4. Enterprise Ireland's Support
    5. Sustaining Enterprise Fund
    6. Pandemic Stabilisation and Recovery Fund
    7. Restart Grant Plus
    8. Covid Restrictions Support Scheme
  5. Revenue Information and Advice
  6. Insurance
  7. Mortgage/Loan Holidays
  8. Companies Registration Office (CRO)

COVID-19 Illness Benefit

 Support 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 request an application form by email and return it by post; or call the DEASP for an application form and return it along with a Certificate of Incapacity for Work text or letter from the HSE depending on your specific circumstances.  
 Further information COVID-19 Illness Benefit 

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Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme

 Support

The Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme ("EWSS") replaced the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme from 1 September 2020 and is expected to continue until 31 March 2021.

The subsidy amount paid will depend on the gross income of each employee.

For every qualifying employee paid:

  • between €203 and €1,462 gross per week, the subsidy is €203; and
  • between €151.50 and €202.99 gross per week, the subsidy is €151.50.

No subsidy is paid for employees paid less than €151.50 or more than €1,462 gross per week. 

 Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for the scheme employers must ensure that they have tax clearance from Revenue. As well as having tax clearance, an employers' business must be able to demonstrate that their business is expected to experience a 30% reduction in turnover or customer orders between 1 July and 31 December 2020 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The reduction is compared to the same period in 2019 where the business was in existence prior to 1 July 2019; the date of commencement to 31 December 2019, where the business commenced trading between 1 July and 1 November 2019; or the projected turnover or customer orders for 1 July to 31 December 2020, where a business commenced trading after 1 November 2019.

Employers are required to undertake monthly reviews (except for the month of July 2020 and the final month of the EWSS) to ensure they are still eligible.

 How to apply

Employers or their authorised payroll agent can register for the EWSS through Revenue Online Service (ROS).

Applications will only be processed if the employer:

  • is registered for Employer PAYE and PRSI;
  • has a bank account linked to that registration; and
  • has tax clearance.
 Further information

The Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme

Ireland's Employment Wage Subsidy

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COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

 Support

The COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment is available from the DEASP for employees and the self-employed who have lost their job on or after 13 March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. New applications will be accepted until the end of 2020.

This payment will be in place until 1 April 2021. From 17 September 2020 until 31 January 2021 the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment will be paid at 3 rates:

  • for those whose prior earnings were €300 per week or more, the rate is €300 per week;
  • for those whose prior earnings were between €200 and €300 per week, the rate is €250 per week; and
  • for those whose prior earnings were less than €200 per week, the rate is €203 per week.

The payment rates are due to change on 1 February 2021 and 1 April 2021.  

 Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible an employee must: be aged between 18-66 years old; currently living in the Republic of Ireland (ROI); have worked in ROI or were a cross border frontier worker; not be in receipt of any employment income; be genuinely seeking work; and have either lost their job due to the COVID-19 pandemic; or have been temporarily laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The payment also applies to the self-employed, non EU/EEA workers, those living in Direct Provision, students and part-time workers.

 How to apply

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

 Further information

COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Ireland changes rates of Pandemic Unemployment Payment

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Commercial Rates

 Policy

The Government has agreed with local authorities that, with limited exceptions, all businesses will be granted a waiver of commercial rates for the six months between 27 March to 27 September 2020. This measure will be implemented by each local authority in its own area.

 Eligibility Criteria The waiver will apply to all businesses that have been forced to close due to public health requirements from 27 March 2020. This waiver has now been extended by the Government until 31 December 2020. Eligible commercial ratepayers are encouraged to contact their local authority immediately in relation to any rates payments falling due in the period to the end of September.

 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 and from local authorities.  

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VAT Reduction

Policy

A six-month reduction in the standard rate of Value-Added Tax (VAT) from 23% to 21% will apply effective from 1 September 2020.

 Eligibility Criteria

N/A

 How to apply

N/A

 Further information N/A 

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Covid-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme

Policy

The Covid-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme will facilitate up to €2 billion in lending to eligible businesses. The scheme offers a partial Government guarantee (currently 80%) to participating banks against losses on qualifying finance agreements (between €10,000 and €1m) to eligible SMEs, small Mid-Caps and primary producers impacted by COVID-19 related issues. The scheme is currently scheduled to remain in place until 31 December 2020.

 Eligibility Criteria This Scheme is available to eligible SME and small Mid-Cap businesses (enterprises that are not SMEs but have fewer than 500 employees), including primary producers (businesses engaged in farming and fishing), established in Ireland. Your business must also have experienced an adverse impact of a minimum of 15% in actual or projected turnover or profit due to the impact of COVID-19

 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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Microfinance Ireland Covid-19 Business Loans

Policy

Microfinance Ireland are offering Covid-19 Business Loans (ranging from €5,000 to €25,000) with zero repayments and zero interest for the first six months. The Government will rebate to you the interest paid between months 7-12 of the loan. The interest rate after the first 6 months will be a reduced interest rate 4.5% APR if submitted through the Local Enterprise Office Network (or other referral partners) or 5.5% APR if you apply directly to Microfinance Ireland. The loan terms are typically up to 3 years and there are no fees or charges.

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible to apply for a Covid-19 Business Loan the business must have fewer than 10 full-time employees, less than €2m annual turnover and a balance sheet with Net Worth/Capital Account/Equity that does not exceed €2m. The business must also be unable to get finance from other commercial lending providers and be negatively impacted by Covid-19 by a minimum of 15% of turnover or profits.

How to apply Talk to a Business Advisor in your Local Enterprise Office or register at microfinanceireland.ie/covid19
Further information Covid-19 Business Loans. 

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SBCI Covid-19 Working Capital Scheme

Policy

The Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) COVID-19 Working Capital Scheme is 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.

Eligibility Criteria

SMEs that:

  1. have fewer than 250 employees;
  2. have turnover of < €50m;
  3. are part of a wider group;
  4. have < 25% capital held by public bodies; and
  5. are established and operating in the Republic of Ireland.

Exclusions include those SMEs prohibited by EU state aid rules, such as SMEs in the primary agriculture and/or aquaculture sector.

Small Mid-Cap enterprises are also eligible.

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 between €100,000 and €800,000 available, with zero repayments for the first 3 years.
Eligibility Criteria Need to have 10 or more full-time employees, to be operating in the manufacturing and internationally traded service sectors and have seen (or expect to see) a 15% or greater reduction in actual or projected turnover or profit, or a significant increase in costs, as a result of Covid-19.
How to apply Sustaining Enterprise Fund - [email protected]
Further information Sustaining Enterprise Fund

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Pandemic Stabilisation and Recovery Fund

Policy The Government recently announced that the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) will make available a new €2 billion Pandemic Stablisation and Recovery Fund ("PSRF") to support medium and large enterprises in Ireland affected by Covid-19.
Eligibility Criteria The PSRF will focus on investment in large and medium enterprises employing more than 250 employees or with annual turnover in excess of €50 million. Enterprises must be able to demonstrate their business was commercially viable prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, and that they can return to viability and contribute to the Irish economy.
How to apply For queries in relation to the PSRF, please use the dedicated email address [email protected]
Further information Pandemic Stabilisation and Recovery Fund

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Restart Grant Plus

Policy The Restart Grant Plus provides direct grant aid to businesses to help them with the costs associated with reopening and reemploying workers following COVID-19 closures. The minimum grant is €4,000 and the maximum grant is €25,000.
Eligibility Criteria

To qualify for the scheme, enterprises must have:

  • 250 employees or less;
  • Turnover of less than €100,000 per employee; and
  • Reduced turnover by 25% as a result of COVID-19.

Those that accessed funding through the previous round of the scheme are eligible to apply for a second top-up payment to a total combined value of the revised maximum grant level

How to apply Applications can be made through local authorities. 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 Restart Grant Plus

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Covid Restrictions Support Scheme

Policy The Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) was announced in the Government's 2020 budget. CRSS provides support for businesses whose trade has been significantly impacted as a result of public health restrictions and is only available when Level 3 or higher restrictions are in place. Grants of up to €5,000 a week will be available to qualifying businesses. The scheme came into effect on the 13 October and will run until 31 March 2020, with the first payments expected to be made by the middle of November 2020.
Eligibility Criteria This Scheme is available businesses where Level 3, or higher, restrictions directly prohibit or restrict access by customers. In order to qualify a business must have experienced an 80% or more reduction in turnover relative to the same period in 2019.
How to apply Applications are expected to open the week of 19 October 2020 and can be made through the Revenue Commissioners.
Further information Revenue

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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.

On 5 August 2020 the CBI published its COVID-19 and Business Interruption Insurance Supervisory Framework (the "Supervisory Framework") setting out the CBI's expectations of Irish regulated financial service providers ("RFSPs") in terms of how they address COVID-19-related Business Interruption claims. Where customers have an entitlement to claim under a business interruption insurance policy, the CBI expects that claims will be processed and paid promptly and fully. Where cover and related issues are disputed, the Central Bank expects firms to pay the reasonable costs of customer plaintiffs in agreed test case litigation.

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 Central Bank Covid-19 Hub

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Mortgage/Loan Holidays

Policy

On 30 September 2020, the payment break introduced in March 2020 by the Irish domestic banks, main retail credit firms and credit servicing firms for customers directly impacted by the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic came to an end. The scheme stopped accepting new applications from this date.

Personal and business customers had been granted a payment break initially for three months, but that was extended for a further three months due to the severity of the economic situation.

From 30 September 2020, lenders will ensure customers who have difficulties at the end of the payment break will be supported with a range of options so that a suitable arrangement can be agreed. This will be done on a case-by-case basis with other options also being made available; reduced payments and interest-only, for example.

The European Banking Authority (EBA) said the breaks had proven effective, but it does not consider adequate at this stage the further extension of such an exceptional measure.

Eligibility Criteria N/A
How to apply Customers should contact their lenders for more information regarding alternative options available to them.
Further information

The BPFI has produced “A Guide to coming off the COVID-19 Mortgage Payment Break”. A BPFI campaign paymentbreak.ie is aimed at encouraging consumers to engage actively with their lender if they face continued financial difficulties.

The Central Bank of Ireland have encouraged lenders to engage with Borrowers still experiencing difficulty making payments due to Covid 19.

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Companies Registration Office (CRO)

Policy

Online filing remains unaffected and from 6 April 2020 the CRO began accepting post again. The Registrar had announced in March that signature pages for Annual Returns and accounts due from 19 March 2020, which need to be physically delivered, would be treated as received on time if received on or before close of business on 30 June 2020. Following a review of the situation, the Registrar has now decided to extend this arrangement for a further period until 31 October 2020.

The filing deadline for companies with an Annual Return Date falling on 30 September 2020 or later has been extended to 26 February 2021. This extension does not apply to companies with earlier Annual Return Dates.

The CRO recognises that companies that have availed of the provisions of Section 6 of the Companies (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Covid-19) Act 2020, which allows companies to opt to hold their AGM up to and including 31 December 2020, may not be in a position to file their Annual Return until after the AGM is held. The 26 February 2021 deadline for filing will apply to companies in these circumstances, however, companies must first notify the CRO in writing in order to avail of this additional time.

Eligibility Criteria N/A
How to apply N/A
Further information

Further details can be found on the CRO website.

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

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