Latest Covid supports for Irish firms and what they mean

As fears flare over a rise in Omicron-related infections, the Irish Government has revealed the expansion of existing supports for Irish businesses.

The Irish Government has revealed changes to the major support schemes available to Irish business impacted by the latest public health restrictions.

Changes will be made to the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS), the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS), and the tax debt warehousing scheme to expand the supports available to businesses affected.

“The EWSS will open to some new businesses and reopen to businesses which had been able to come off the subsidy but are now back in difficulty”

“Since the start of the pandemic we have aimed to minimise the loss of life, protect the health service and save as many jobs and businesses as possible,” Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar TD said.

“This new package will protect jobs and businesses adversely affected by the recent Covid restrictions.

“The EWSS will open to some new businesses and reopen to businesses which had been able to come off the subsidy but are now back in difficulty. The rules for the CRSS will be relaxed so that many more businesses, whose turnover is down due to government regulations, can receive the payment. It will also be paid to affected business that decide to close because they can operate viably with restricted hours. Separately, tax warehousing will be extended into the first quarter of 2022 which is another really important measure in terms of cash flow.

“We’ve already extended the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme to the end of January at the full rate to help pay the wages and encourage employers to keep people on the payroll. The Pandemic Unemployment Payment has been reopened to new entrants and re-entrants who cannot work due to restrictions. We have introduced sectoral schemes for aviation, sporting bodies and the arts. We know these are really difficult times for many businesses, but as we approach the end of 2021, I want to thank Irish companies for co-operating with the public health advice, for keeping the public and their own staff safe, and for your perseverance in the face of a relentless pandemic,” Varadkar said.

Labour challenges expected

Business lobby group Ibec welcomed the expansion of the support schemes but warned that employers are expecting significant labour challenges in the coming weeks as a result of of close-contact isolation guidelines.

“These schemes have proven invaluable to businesses across the country throughout this pandemic and will continue to play a vital role in enabling the economy to bounce back at the other end of this crisis, supporting vulnerable firms to stay afloat, and keeping their employees engaged whilst protecting the incomes of individuals,” said Ibec CEO Danny McCoy.

“While these schemes are welcomed, it must be acknowledged that they are not a silver bullet and that serious challenges remain, particularly for those industries in the Experience Economy and in adjacent sectors throughout the supply chain.

“In addition, many sectors are expecting significant labour challenges in the coming weeks under existing guidelines concerning self-isolation following Covid close-contacts notification. Essential industries and frontline services must not be crippled by the ‘pingdemic’ effect and for this to be the case, we need a practical, ongoing review of self-isolation guidelines.” 

Latest Irish Government Covid measures

Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS)

The public health restrictions currently in force, require nightclubs and discotheques to remain closed until 9 January 2022 and they are eligible to receive the CRSS.

Following the announcement of further restrictions on Friday 17 December, the government have agreed that the CRSS will be made available to those businesses (hospitality and indoor entertainment) that have been significantly restricted from trading. Up to now, a business was required to close or significantly restrict access by customers to its premises to qualify for the Scheme. This was agreed in recognition of the challenges facing these businesses.

The turnover reduction criteria will be increased from no more that 25% of 2019 turnover to no more that 40% of 2019 turnover, and new businesses established between 13 October 2020 and 26 July 2021 will now be eligible to apply for the scheme.

Currently any business established after 12 October 2020 is not eligible for CRSS. The government has now agreed to allow new businesses established between 13 October 2020 and 26 July 2021 to be eligible to apply for the scheme.

Revenue has indicated that the scheme will be operational for the affected sectors this week. Further details for businesses will be set out in Revenue guidelines to be published shortly.

Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS)

The EWSS will continue to apply to the vast majority of businesses affected by the recently updated restrictions, with a continuation of the enhanced rates as announced on 9 December.

In addition, the government today agreed that the EWSS will reopen for certain businesses who would otherwise not be eligible and that such businesses can continue to be supported until the expiry of the scheme on 30 April 2022.

The new arrangements for EWSS will provide employers who have previously availed of EWSS but who are no longer eligible, with the opportunity to re-qualify for the scheme where they meet certain conditions.

Employers that qualify for re-entry to the scheme will receive support on a prospective basis from 1 January 2022 onwards, and they can remain in the scheme until its expiry date (30 April 2022).

Tax Debt Warehousing

The government also agreed to extend the tax debt warehousing scheme to allow the period where liabilities arising can be “warehoused” to the end of Q1 2022 for taxpayers eligible for the COVID-19 support schemes; this means that interest free period for those taxpayers will now be 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023.