The following measures have been announced by Government in recent days which will no doubt be added to as the crisis evolves.
Government Credit Schemes
Credit Guarantee Scheme
The Department of Business Enterprise and Innovation has recommended that the SME sector consider this existing scheme which allows SMEs to seek finance of up to €1m through participating lenders (AIB, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank).
Under the scheme the Government provides a partial guarantee of the debt to the lender in order to increase the likelihood that the lender will approve the loan.
Covid 19 Loans (Micro Finance Ireland)
This scheme is available to businesses with less than 10 employees and a turnover of less than €2m.
The maximum loan available is €50k with an interest rate of 6.8% to 7.8%, repayable over terms of up to 3 years.
SBCI Covid-19 Working Capital Scheme
The scheme is expected to be finalised in the coming days.
Maximum loan sizes will be €1.5m (€0.5m unsecured) with a maximum interest rate of 4%.
Eligibility Criteria will be announced shortly.
Enterprise Ireland Business Response Covid-19
Currently being finalised, this fund will be aimed at supporting vulnerable but viable firms that need to restructure their businesses.
There are also a number of Enterprise Ireland grants to cover strategic consultancy and financial planning
In addition to the credit measure introduced, the main Irish banks have undertaken to provide additional support to businesses including:
- A payment break of up to three months;
- The deferment of Court proceedings for three months;
- Additional working capital facilities where appropriate.
Government Employment Schemes
Employer Refund Scheme
The Department of Social Protection will introduce a scheme to reimburse employers who retain employees instead of laying them off as a result of social distancing and other measures which will result in business interruption.
Under the scheme the Department will refund employers who pay staff €203 per week for each worker who is temporarily laid off in order to avoid a steep rise in unemployment benefit claims and so that staff will be retained as employees by their Company.
The Government are also encouraging Employers wherever possible to bridge the gap between the €203 payment and the Employees normal salary wherever possible in cases where employees cannot attend work due to the virus or self isolation.
Pandemic Unemployment Payment
If you need to claim Jobseekers benefit as a result of being laid off or no longer being able to support yourself if self employed, you can claim an emergency payment through the Department’s COVID-UP application form on line.
This will allow you to avail of the €203 payment immediately without the normal waiting period for a period of up to 6 weeks
However you must also apply for Jobseekers benefit to ensure continuation of payments after the initial period ends
Enhanced Illness Benefit
When a worker is told to self-isolate by a doctor or has been diagnosed with COVID-19 (Coronavirus) by a doctor, they can apply for an enhanced Illness Benefit payment of €305 per week for a maximum of two weeks.
To be eligible for this payment a person must be confined to their home or a medical facility.
Temporary Lay Offs, Short Time Working and Pay Cuts
An Employer must formally notify staff of an alteration to the terms of their employment
The same criteria for redundancy should be used when introducing temporary lay offs, short time working and pay cuts.
Unless the contract for employment allows for it or it is general custom in your industry, employee consent is required for alterations to their terms of employment.
A temporary lay off of more than 4 consecutive weeks or 6 weeks within a 13 week period gives an employee a possible entitlement to claim statutory redundancy.
If however, within 7 days of the Employee notifying that they intend to claim redundancy the Employer serves a counter-notice advising that within 4 weeks it will be possible to offer 13 consecutive weeks of work without lay off or short time the entitlement to redundancy does not arise.
In circumstances where an Employee successfully claims redundancy while on temporary lay off they lose any entitlements to minimum notice as they are deemed to have voluntarily left their job.
Revenue Commissioner Measures
- No Interest charges on late payment of January/ February 2020 Vat returns and February and March 2020 PAYE/PRSI returns for SME businesses (non SME businesses should contact the Collector General directly)
- Businesses are however expected to continue to file their tax returns
- Tax clearance status will not be removed from any business in the coming months.
- The RCT rate review in March will be suspended