Guide to Brexit and Covid supports, loans and grants for SMEs

ThinkBusiness looks at the various supports, grants and loans still in place for Irish businesses that have run the gauntlet of Brexit and Covid-19.

Having endured two years like no other, Irish businesses are looking to the future. But they are not out of the woods yet.

Vital measures from tax warehousing to various wage support schemes have played their part but now is the time for Irish companies to build for the future and a world beyond Brexit and Covid-19.

Here is a round up of various supports, some of which will remain for the rest of 2021 and others that will continue for the foreseeable future.

A surgical mask with the flag of Ireland behind some descending stacks of various coins.

Accelerated Recovery Fund

The €31m Accelerated Recovery Fund is a new fund designed to provide support to Irish companies seeking to adapt their operations and business models in order to remain competitive and return to growth following the effects of the pandemic.

The fund supports eligible companies seeking to achieve an accelerated recovery underpinned by capital investment and/or adoption of a new, more digital approach to deliver enhanced sustainability.

The fund is open to manufacturing and internationally traded services companies. Funding must be approved and drawn down before 31st December, 2021.

Apprenticeship Incentivisation Scheme

Available until 31 December 2021, the Apprenticeship Incentivisation Scheme provides financial support to employers who take on apprentices with employers receiving a payment of €3,000 per new apprentice.

Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme

The Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) subsidises payroll costs for businesses whose revenue was impacted by the pandemic.

EWSS provides a flat-rate subsidy to qualifying employers based on the numbers of eligible employees on the employer’s payroll. The EWSS, operated by Revenue, has replaced the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme and will run until 31 December 2021.

The EWSS is for eligible employers experiencing a reduction of 30pc in turnover or customer orders due to Covid-19. Employers can claim back a flat-rate subsidy for each eligible employee. Employers PRSI will be reduced to 0.5pc.

Brexit Loan Impact Scheme

Ireland’s Brexit Impact Loan Scheme aims to provide affordable financing to Brexit-impacted Irish businesses. The scheme is delivered by the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) through commercial lenders, including Bank of Ireland.

The fund will make up to €330m available to eligible businesses with up to 499 employees. The loans range from €25,000 up to €1.5m and each loan can range from one to six years in duration. Loans will be for terms of one to six years with a discounted interest rate, and loans of up to €500,000 will be available unsecured.

The scheme will provide an 80pc guarantee to participating lenders on loans to Brexit-impacted businesses and will be underpinned by a counter-guarantee through the European Commission’s pan-European Guarantee Fund, which is managed by the European Investment Bank Group.

Business Resumption Support Scheme

With applications open since 1 September and running until 30 November 2021, the Business Resumption Support Scheme (BRSS) will support businesses that were significantly impacted throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, even during periods when restrictions were eased.

The support will be available to eligible businesses who carry on a relevant business activity. Your business must be able to demonstrate a significant reduction in trade during the period 1 September 2020 to 31 August 2021.

Eligible businesses can make a claim to Revenue for a payment known as an Advance Credit for Trading Expenses (ACTE).

Covid 19 Business Financial Planning Grant

The Covid-19 Business Financial Planning grant will provide a strategic intervention for companies to work with third party consultants to prepare a detailed financial and business plan with forecasts and assumptions.

It provides grant support to companies of up to €5,000 (100pc of expenditure) for an engagement with an approved external consultant.

Covid-19 Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS)

The Covid-19 Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) was introduced to support businesses significantly affected by restrictions introduced to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

The support will be available to eligible businesses who carry on a business activity that is impacted by Covid-19 restrictions. The business must have been required to prohibit or considerably restrict customers from accessing their business premises. Generally, this refers to Covid-19 restrictions at Level 3, 4 or 5 as explained in the Government’s Plan for Living with Covid-19. Certain businesses may qualify for the support where lower levels of restrictions are in operation. The specific restrictions applying to businesses are provided for in regulations made by the Department of Health.

Eligible businesses can make a claim to Revenue for a payment known as an Advance Credit for Trading Expenses (ACTE). An ACTE is payable for each week a business is affected by the restrictions. The CRSS is expected to continue until 31 December 2021.

Covid-19 Deferred Payment Arrangement

Businesses with verified financial difficulties caused by the Covid-19 emergency measures will get support as they deal with potential additional statutory redundancy costs.

Covid-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme

Announced as part of the Government’s suite of supports for businesses that have been negatively impacted as a result of the outbreak of Covid-19 in Ireland, the Covid-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme will facilitate up to €2bn in lending to eligible businesses.

The Scheme offers a partial Government guarantee (80pc) to participating finance providers against losses on qualifying finance agreements to eligible SMEs, small Mid-Caps and primary producers.

It is designed to incentivise participating finance providers to continue to play their role in supporting the availability of additional liquidity to Irish businesses.

Loans under the Scheme range from €10,000 to €1 million, for terms of up to five-and-a-half years. Financing will be offered through a range of products, including term loans, working capital loans and overdrafts. Loans of up to €250,000 under the Scheme are available unsecured (except where this is a requirement of the product feature, as in the case of asset finance, invoice discount facilities, etc).

As the Covid-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme to help Irish businesses navigate the ongoing pandemic, Bank of Ireland has created a new online portal to simplify the application process.

Covid-19 Business Loans Scheme

A package of liquidity and enterprise investment measures worth €55m has been put in place to support small and micro companies through additional resources for MicroFinance Ireland and the Local Enterprise Offices.

Digitalisation Voucher

The objective of the Digitalisation Voucher is to help companies prepare a plan for the adoption of digital tools and techniques across the business.

The fund is open to manufacturing and internationally traded services companies.

The voucher covers either technical or advisory services related to the Operations of the business from an approved service provider up to a value of €9,000. A maximum daily rate of €900 per day shall apply. It is expected that the support would be provided over a relatively short period but can be spread out over a maximum of six weeks.

Enterprise Support Grant

The Enterprise Support Grant is available to assist eligible self-employed recipients who close their Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment. This will provide business owners with a grant of up to €1,000 to restart their business which was closed due to the pandemic. It has been extended to assist existing businesses who are reopening after Covid-19 restrictions.

Future Growth Loan Scheme

The enhanced Future Growth Loan Scheme makes up to €800m of loans available for terms of 7-10 years. This scheme is available to eligible businesses in Ireland, including those in the primary agriculture (farmers) and seafood sectors, to support strategic long-term investment. Loans are available for amounts from €25,000 up to a maximum of €3m. There is a maximum interest rate of 4.5pc per annum and the first €500,000 can be unsecured. The scheme will run until lenders’ capacity has been fully subscribed.

Green for Micro programme

The Green for Micro programme, an initiative from the Local Enterprise Offices with support from Enterprise Ireland, is being rolled-out nationwide to help prepare small businesses for the low carbon, more resource efficient economy of the future.

With the help of a Green Consultant, small businesses with up to ten employees can get free advice and technical support on resource efficiency, how to better understand their carbon footprint and how to implement an environmental management system to reduce costs and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

InterTrade Ireland E-merge Programme

The E-Merge programme provides £2,500/€2,800 fully-funded consultancy support to help businesses develop online sales and eCommerce solutions.

Support is provided in a range of areas including:

  • How to promote and sell online
  • Website management
  • SEO optimisation
  • Identification of sectoral e-markets
  • E-commerce
  • Online payment systems/ billing/ security
  • Product listing
  • Product packaging & labelling
  • Pricing/price matching/batch offers/discounts
  • Secure logistics/ delivery methods
  • Customer service/ managing satisfaction ratings
  • Legal & Insurance implications

Online Retail Scheme

So far, Enterprise Ireland has provided €5m in grants to 133 Irish retailers under the Covid-19 Online Retail Scheme.

The scheme is targeted at retailers who already have an online presence to strengthen their online offering and enable them to reach a wider customer base.

Successful applicants will receive funding ranging from €16,000 to €40,000 to strengthen their online offering. The average grant value is €36,700 and covers up to 80pc of project costs.

Part-time Job Incentive for the Self-Employed

The Part-Time Job Incentive Scheme for the Self-Employed (PTSE) is a new scheme for self-employed people. It provides income support to self-employed people who will lose their Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) if they earn over €960 over eightweeks. It also provides support to self-employed people on a jobseeker’s payment who lose their employment due to Covid-19.

PTSE is paid instead of your PUP or jobseeker’s payment. It is paid at a lower rate, but there is no limit on the amount you can earn. You cannot work more than 24 hours per week with the PTSE.

The PTSE will run for as long as the PUP is in operation.

Sustaining Enterprise Fund

Important amendments are being made to liquidity and medium-term financial supports provided under the Sustaining Enterprise Fund (SEF) to Covid -19 impacted enterprises operating in the manufacturing and internationally traded services areas. Supports being provided under the SEF will now comprise a non-repayable grant element of up to 50pc of the total value of the support being provided, up to a maximum value of €200,000, with the balance of funding being in the form of repayable support (equity, loan note or repayable advance).

These changes are being made in response to the extended ongoing difficulties and evolving liquidity needs being experienced by companies resulting from Covid-19.

The changes being introduced will provide greater assistance to vulnerable but viable companies to address their immediate liquidity needs, while taking the necessary actions to return to a position of viability and growth over the medium term.

Trading Online Voucher Scheme

The Trading Online Voucher Scheme run by the Local Enterprise Offices offers funding of €2,500 to businesses of up to 10 employees.

It offers financial assistance of up to €2,500 with co-funding of 50pc from the business along with training and advice to help your business trade online. Cutting the cost of developing your online trading capacity by up to 50pc can make this investment very affordable for many small businesses out there.

Funding can be used towards adding payment facilities or booking systems to your website or developing new apps for your 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.

John Kennedy
Award-winning ThinkBusiness.ie editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.