Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, has announced a major expansion of supports for businesses impacted by COVID-19, including an expansion of the Trading Online Voucher Scheme and a reduction in the interest rate for Microfinance Ireland loans.
Minister Humphreys announced the expansion of the €2,500 Trading Online Voucher Scheme through Local Enterprise Offices, for businesses employing up to 10 people.
In agreement with the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, Richard Bruton, an additional €3.3m is being provided to the scheme bringing the total available nationally to €5.6m. Local businesses in Westmeath that previously benefited from the Trading Online Voucher Scheme can, from today, apply for a second voucher of up to €2,500, with co-funding of 10 per cent. The voucher can be used to help add payment or booking systems to websites, along with subscriptions to low-cost online retailing platform solutions.
A substantial reduction in interest rates on Microfinance Ireland loans was also announced, bringing the rate down to 4.5 per cent, where applications are made through Local Enterprise Office Westmeath. COVID-19 Business Loans of up to €50,000 are available from Microfinance Ireland with no repayments and no interest charged in the first six months, for eligible businesses that employ less than 10 people.
“This package is a significant step-up in the supports available for all businesses in all sectors at this very difficult time. The measures have been developed to meet the varying needs of Irish enterprise and they are very specifically targeted by size, sector and need. The impact of COVID-19 presents unprecedented difficulties for businesses who have already spent the past three years preparing for the possible consequences of Brexit, but those preparations will stand to us. I want to reiterate to firms that we will continue to use all available tools at our disposal to support them and keep money flowing through the economy in the difficult months ahead,” Minister Humphreys stated.
Christine Charlton, head of enterprise in Westmeath County Council, welcomed the business supports announcement.
“For many local businesses, the options for trading are very limited as a result of COVID-19. However, there are a lot of opportunities in online selling and by accessing this Trading Online Voucher scheme, small businesses can develop a sustainable strategy for increasing sales.”
“If your business needs access to finance, applying for microfinance loans through Local Enterprise Office Westmeath will secure the lowest available rate and you will get valuable assistance in the application process and free one-to-one mentoring along the way,” Ms Charlton added.
Meanwhile, the Business Continuity Voucher, worth up to €2,500 in third party consultancy support, is another new measure available for businesses through Local Enterprise Offices. It is designed for businesses across every sector that employ up to 50 people and can be used by companies and sole traders to develop short-term and long-term strategies. The goal is to help companies make informed decisions about what immediate measures and remedial actions should be taken, to protect staff and sales.
In addition, Local Enterprise Offices have also moved the majority of training programmes, workshops and networking online, making them as accessible as possible for those working remotely.
More details about small business supports available through Local