A Story of how Covid-19 is Changing the Irish Retail Landscape

The Covid-19 crisis has resulted in significant disruption in many industries, but unquestionably the  most negatively impacted are the hospitality and retail sectors, both of which are heavily reliant on people and face to face interaction. There are undoubted challenges for businesses as a whole at the end of all this, and nobody knows with any great certainty how the Irish economy will react once the threat of Covid-19 has passed.

What we don't want to see is employees becoming the collateral damage in this evolving scenario.

For the retail sector, the post-pandemic recovery is very much down to keeping those retailers that have closed shop afloat, so that once things return to normal, they can resume trading both on the high street and online.

First Casualties in Retail

However there have been some notable casualties already Debenhams, Warehouse, Oasis where liquidators have been appointed to all. In terms of job losses Debenhams closure will see up to 1500 people lose their jobs. In relation to Cork city this sees the Closure of  Debenhams Mahon Point & Debenhams Patrick Street. Taken into consideration with the loss of Warehouse & Oasis it seriously undermines the retail offer in Cork city. But more importantly it creates a serious number of job losses.


Regarding Debenhams closure which as the Covid-19 crisis continues, could be replicated throughout the retail sector again and again. The basic facts surrounding Debenhams decision to cease operations was arising out of its UK-based parent’s decision to enter administration and seek an application to appoint  provisional liquidators. This came after the company was informed by its UK parent that it was no longer in a position to provide it with financial support. However Debenhams plans to reopen most of its UK stores post Covid- 19 restrictions.

As a consequence it would seem only fair and reasonable that Debenhams UK which has been financially supporting Debenhams Retail Ireland over a number of years. Would provide some funding to ensure its Irish employees were offered a reasonable package. Whilst it will not make up for them losing their jobs and the hardship this will cause. It would be a recognition for their service and in some way help them plan for the future.

Regretfully I fear we are likely to see more of these type of closures in the coming weeks and months as a direct impact of the Covid-19 crisis. What we don't want to see is employees becoming the collateral damage in this evolving scenario.

5 Key Initiatives to Support Business Recovery and Preserve Jobs.

Cork Business Association is seeking the introduction of 5 Key Initiatives to Support Business Recovery and Preserve Jobs.

Press Release

Hope has been expressed that some of the Covid -19 restrictions may be eased after May 5th in specific sectors such as construction. However, there is no certainty to this and as always in relation to the Covid-19 crisis, all decisions must be taken from a public health safety perspective. The government’s initial response to support employment and economic activity due to the Covid -19 crisis was both proactive and rapid. But we must now plan ahead and aim to exit the crisis in a position that allows us to recover as quickly and robustly as possible.

In Cork, we have seen some high profile business closures and may well indeed see more. It is imperative that we protect as much employment as possible and government measures to date have helped. But a lot more is required and the Cork Business Association is calling for the introduction of a number of targeted business supports. Without which many businesses that are currently closed may not be in a position to reopen.

The danger for example in the retail sector alone which employs circa 300000 nationally is that we will have a further contraction in cities and towns around Ireland and the dilemma of maintaining a dynamic and compelling offer for our customers will be exacerbated.

The scale of Ireland’s economic response to date falls well below the average of those countries who have announced packages. The government must provide certainty for business and a signposted road map on how the economy will be supported in its recovery.

There are five key asks that we call on the government to introduce as a matter of priority.

1.The Abolition of Local Authority Commercial Rates on all impacted business for a period of 12 Months

There are certain categories of business for which commercial rates are a significant portion of their cost base and we want to see relief in this area to ensure these businesses are enabled to survive and to minimise job losses.

The stark reality is many businesses do not have nor will have for the foreseeable future the necessary cash flow to pay commercial rates thereby forcing many to close. This is the worst possible outcome for all parties resulting in job losses, ongoing revenue loss to Local Authorities and the vista of boarded-up premises on our streets.
Consequently, the Central Government must fund Local Authorities to ensure impacted businesses are relieved of this burden for a twelve-month period. A supplementary commercial rates review should be conducted by each Local Authority in 2021of those impacted businesses that are still fragile and continue to be in recovery mode and a further rates exemption of 3 to 6 months applied on a case by case basis.

2. Commercial Rents Supports

The government must introduce measures to underwrite commercial rents on impacted businesses for the duration of the crisis.

It is important that solutions are found that are agreeable to both landlord and tenant and thus avoid a situation when businesses reopen and are still dealing with this legacy cost. Without a solution, we are in danger of entering a phase of ongoing legal disputes between both sides and each party will have a diminished prospect of survival. A viable rental market and a functioning business sector are critical components of a working economy. The government must devise a mechanism that will provide the support that will assist with a real recovery for Commercial tenants who must be allowed to re-open without having to face legacy costs and landlords who must be aided in meeting their considerable financial commitments. Both landlord and tenant are interdependent on each other and the failure of one will undoubtedly impact the other. Without commercially viable tenants and functioning solvent landlords, no recovery will be possible. During the period of the crisis, the Government must legislate to protect commercial tenants and ban all lease forfeitures. Businesses that have made a successful business disruption insurance claim should not qualify for government rent support.

3. VAT Rates

There must be an extension to the Vat return deadline and Revenue must be flexible with impacted businesses and agree on a timetable over the next two years to pay Vat due during the Covid -19 crisis period.

Introduce a zero % Vat rate for Hospitality, Tourism & Services sectors for a six month period from March to August 2020. Followed by a return to the 9% Vat rate from September 2020

4. Water Charges

A moratorium on all water charges for 2020 for the Hospitality, Tourism & Services sectors. Water charges are a significant business cost in this sector and applying this moratorium would provide a tangible benefit to businesses and assist in their ability to recover.

5. SME Credit Supports Scheme & Cash Grants Scheme model

There is an urgent need to give liquidity support to businesses in the form of interest-free loans and cash grants because if credit supports are not markedly increased many businesses may not be in a position to re-open when restrictions are eased, others will do so crippled by debts.

Consequently, liquidity and cash flow will be essential in assisting businesses firstly to survive and then recover.
The positive news is the Irish economy enters this crisis in a much healthier state than during the financial crisis, and saving as many companies and jobs as we can, must be a top priority. The Government must provide guarantees to allow banks to lend to small firms at all-time low or zero% interest rates to help businesses survive and recover.
The Government needs to stimulate and provide additional support to the economy by borrowing money and now is the right time to borrow money with interest rates being historically low. In essence, the Government must underwrite a wide range of business costs for a fixed period and provide accessible financial support to help restart the economy.

As this crisis persists more will need to be done to help struggling businesses. But the introduction of these measures will significantly reduce the number of business closures, maintain as many jobs as possible and provide a basis on which our economy can start to function again.



Cash Flow and Other Supports for Businesses

Cash flow supports for businesses

A variety of other supports for businesses affected by COVID-19 have been made available by the State and State agencies, including:

  • Loans from €25,000 to €1.5 million under the Working Capital Loan Scheme, operated by the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI). Loans are available to viable micro, small and medium-sized enterprises ("SMEs") and Small MidCap enterprises, who meet the eligibility criteria. A Small Mid-Cap is an enterprise that is not an SME but has fewer than 500 employees. The loans have a maximum interest rate of 4% and the first €500,000 borrowed can be unsecured. Applications can be made through the SBCI website.
  • Longer-term loans from €100,000 to €3,000,000 for SME’s under the Future Growth Loan Scheme also operated through the SBCI. The loans have a maximum interest rate of 4.5% and the first €500,000 borrowed can be unsecured.
  • A Credit Guarantee Scheme which supports loans up to €1 million for periods of up to 7 years. The purpose of this scheme is to encourage additional lending to SMEs by offering a partial Government guarantee (currently 80%) to banks against losses on qualifying loans to eligible SMEs. The Scheme is operated by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation through AIB, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank.
  • Microenterprise loans of up to €50,000 from MicroFinance Ireland for sole traders, partnerships and limited companies with less than 10 full-time employees and an annual turnover of up to €2m. Applications can be made through the MFI website or through your Local Enterprise Office .
  • A new Business Continuity Voucher, available through Local Enterprise Offices, for businesses that employ up to 50 people. The voucher is worth up to €2,500 in third party consultancy costs and can be used by companies and sole traders to develop short-term and long-term strategies to respond to the COVID-19 emergency. Clients of Enterprise Ireland, IDA or Údarás na Gaeltachta should contact their relevant agency, which has other appropriate supports in place. Download an application form and email it to your Local Enterprise Office .
  • A new Trading Online Voucher Scheme, available through Local Enterprise Offices to help small and microenterprises get online. The voucher is worth up to €2,500. A  second voucher of up to €2,500 can be sought once the first has been successfully utilised. Voucher numbers are limited - contact your Local Enterprise Office for more information and application details.
  • A Business Financial Planning Grant from Enterprise Ireland to the value of €5,000 to assist companies to develop a Business Sustainment Plan and to engage the services of an approved Financial Consultant. For more information and to apply contact Enterprise Ireland.
  • A Finance in Focus grant of €7,200 will be available to Enterprise Ireland and Údarás na Gaeltachta clients.
  • The deferral of commercial rates due to local authorities from the most immediately impacted businesses – primarily in the retail, hospitality, leisure and childcare sectors, until the end of May.
  • €180m Sustaining Enterprise Fund for firms with 10 or more employees in the manufacturing and international services sectors to be operated by Enterprise Ireland, providing advances of up to €800,000 which are only repayable when a business returns to good financial health.
  • A COVID-19 Online Retail Scheme open to retailers employing over 10 people. Grants ranging from €10,000 to €40,000 will be awarded under the competitive scheme to retailers seeking to improve their existing online capability.
  • Bord Bia's COVID Response Marketing Support Package, a marketing grant scheme open to food, drink and horticul horticulture (edible and amenity) producers , who are client companies of Bord Bia, with a turnover between €100,000 and €25 million in 2019. The closing date for receipt of applications is Thursday, 16 April 2020.

You can read more in the full Government announcement on supports for business.

Other general supports for businesses

The following supports are available for firms experiencing trading difficulties and short-term shocks:

  • The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and DBEI will provide a joint First Responder support service through the Intreo Offices and development agencies, Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland in each region to provide tailored supports for impacted firms, with the objective of avoiding mass lay-offs and buying time for firms to work through the short-term disruptions.
  • The full range of Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland, Local Enterprise Office and Údarás na Gaeltachta grant supports will be available to firms to help with strategies to innovate, diversify markets and supply chains and to improve competitiveness.

All annual returns due to be filed by companies will be deemed to have been filed on time if all elements of the annual return are completed and filed by 30 June, 2020. This will enable businesses and their financial advisers to focus on the more pressing and immediate financial challenges. The situation will be kept under review and the date of 30 June may be extended depending on the situation at that time. Companies should check the CRO website for more details.

Revenue has advice for businesses experiencing trading difficulties as a result of COVID-19. This includes information on tax returns, late payment interest, debt enforcement, tax clearance and customs.

Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation Fund administered by Enterprise Ireland

Important information for all CBA members.

We have been advised that Enterprise Ireland will launch a call for funding on April 20 to support retail companies to enhance their digital capability. Details of this initiative plus links for further information are below. If you have any queries on the application process please contact: retail@enterprise-ireland.com  

To fully appraise companies of the application process and the key issues to be addressed in an application, Enterprise Ireland is hosting a Webinar this Friday, April 17th at 11.00 a.m. The Webinar will be for no more than 45 minutes and we would encourage all interested parties to participate. As there are limited participant numbers, attendance is on a first-come, first-served basis.  The Webinar will be recorded and available on Enterprise Ireland's website afterwards. Please see the link to share and to register prior to the event:   



The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI) has proposed this Scheme in response to the Covid-19 crisis.

This is a competitive fund which will be administered by Enterprise Ireland on behalf of DBEI with a total fund size of €2 million.


Applicants must be an Irish-owned retail enterprise that had 10 or more employees on or before 29 February 2020, have a retail outlet and have an existing online presence.

The Covid-19 Online Retail Scheme is complimentary to the Online Trading Voucher provided by Local Enterprise Offices for companies with less than 10 employees.


The maximum grant available is €40,000. Successful applicants will be awarded funding to support a maximum of 80% of the project costs. The minimum grant amount payable is €10,000.

Costs which successful companies will be eligible to claim for include: salary costs and consultancy fees to develop a digital strategy, enhance the company’s website or to provide training.


The final date for companies to submit an application is 3.00 pm on Wednesday 20th May 2020. Full details of the application process and eligibility rules will be published on the EI website shortly:



To fully appraise companies of the application process and the key issues to be addressed in an application, we are hosting a Webinar this Friday, April 17th at 11.00 a.m. The Webinar will be for no more than 45 minutes and I would encourage all interested parties to participate. As we are limited to participant numbers, attendance is on a first-come, first-served basis.  The Webinar will be recorded and available on our website afterwards. Please see the link to share and to register prior to the event:   https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8504048846458333451


Kind Regards


Lawrence Owens 

Chief Executive

Cork Business Association

Minister Donohoe announces update to the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme

The Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) was introduced on 26th March 2020 to provide income support to eligible employees where the employer’s business activities have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic.

The aim of the scheme is to maximise staff retention and firm viability by maintaining the link between the employer and employee.  The rate is set with respect to previous average net wage levels.

Many employers (over 43,000 as of today) have registered for the scheme and over 26,000 of these have already received a refund.  Minister Donohoe has been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that over 219,000 employees have already received at least one payment under the scheme and that approximately 84% of employees have also received a top-up payment from their employer.

Section 28 of the relevant legislation, the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Act 2020 makes provision for the Minister for Finance to determine the amount of the temporary wage subsidy, including in relation to those earning in excess of €586 per week (€38,000 pa).   Furthermore, it is acknowledged that as the scheme has been developed at speed there are imperfections and anomalies arising, including for lower-paid employees.

Therefore, Minister Donohoe has today (Wednesday) announced some further changes to the Scheme which apply to those earning less than €500 per week (approx. €31,000) as well as those earning in excess of €586 per week (€38,000).


1. Employees with net pay less than €586 per week (€38,000)

  • For those employees with previous average net pay less than €412 per week (equivalent to almost €24,400) the subsidy will be increased from 70% to 85% of their previous net weekly pay.
  • For those employees with previous average net pay between €412 and €500 per week (equivalent to €24,400-€31,000), the subsidy will be up to €350 per week.

In addition, where an employer wishes to pay a greater level of top-up - beyond the outstanding 15% of previous pay- (in respect of employees with net pay less than €412 per week) in order to bring the employee’s  pay to €350 per week then tapering would not be applied to the subsidy.

There are no changes in respect of those whose previous average net pay was between €500 and €586 per week (equivalent to €31,000-€38,000), who will continue to receive a subsidy of up to 70% of previous net income, up to a maximum of €410 per week.

These changes mean that more employees will now receive a subsidy of €350 per week, and those with previous net pay below €412 per week will now receive a greater level of subsidy.


2. Employees with net pay in excess of €586 per week (€38,000)

For employees with previous net pay in excess of €586 per week (equivalent to €38,000), a tiered approach will apply.  The maximum subsidy payable for these remains €350 per week.

The tiered approach takes into account both the amount paid by the employer and the level of reduction in pay borne by that employee as follows:


Gross Amount paid by Employer Subsidy
Up to 60% of employee’s previous average net weekly pay Up to €350 per week
Between 60% and 80% of employee’s previous average net weekly pay Up to €205 per week
Over 80% of employee’s previous average net weekly pay No subsidy payable


Tapering of the subsidy will apply to all cases where the gross pay paid by the employer and the subsidy exceed the previous average net weekly pay.  This is calculated by subtracting the amount paid by the employer from the previous average net weekly pay.  This is to ensure that no employee would be better off under the scheme.

Minister Donohoe has also determined that the wage subsidy is now available to support employees where the average net pre-Covid salary was greater than €76,000, and their gross post-Covid salary has fallen below €76,000.  The tiered arrangement applicable to gross incomes in excess of €38,000 will apply in such circumstances.

Therefore, if an employee was earning over €76,000 gross and has now  been reduced to below €960 net pay a week,  and their reduction is more than 20% then a subsidy of up to €205 would be payable and if the reduction was more than 40% a subsidy of up to €350 would be payable.   To calculate the level of subsidy payable, current gross pay will be compared with previous average net weekly pay for January/February.  This subsidy will be tapered so as to ensure that the total net income (employer contribution + wage subsidy) does not exceed €960 net per week.

Minister Donohoe said: ‘The Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme was designed and introduced with great speed. This was done to ensure the greatest number of employees maintained the link with their employee during this difficult time. It stood to reason that there were anomalies that needed to be ironed out to ensure greater fairness and implementation of the scheme. The whole world is facing a time of unprecedented difficulty. Here in Ireland we are working hard to ensure the impact and fallout from what is happening is minimised for our people to the greatest extent possible. Today’s measures serve to reinforce that message and to offer additional comfort to employer and employees in the period ahead’.

Effective date

These determinations have been made by the Minister for Finance [with the consent of the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection], in accordance with Section 28 of the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Act 2020. The determinations will apply for payroll with a pay date on or after the 4 May and received by the Revenue Commissioners on or after that date (no back-dating of increased subsidy will apply).


Revenue are currently making the necessary changes to their systems to implement these changes and move to phase 2 of the scheme.  This phase will see a personal subsidy amount paid in respect of each employee and recoupment of any amounts overpaid to employers during the introductory interim phase.

Qualification Criteria

There is no change to the qualification criteria for employers.

The Subsidy Scheme is open to employers who self-declare to Revenue that they have experienced significant negative economic disruption due to Covid-19. They should be able to show that they meet the criteria laid out in Revenue’s published Guidance on Employer Eligibility and Supporting Proofs - https://www.revenue.ie/en/corporate/communications/documents/guidance-on-employer-eligibility-and-supporting-proofs.pdf


Major expansion of business supports for SMEs

COVID-19: Minister Humphreys announces major expansion of business supports for SMEs

€1 billion in liquidity measures available for SMEs

€180m Sustaining Enterprise Fund launched

  • Expansion of two SBCI Loan Schemes by €450m to provide an extra €250m for working capital and €200m for longer-term loans, bringing the total allocation to support liquidity in companies affected by the COVID-19 crisis to €650m
  • €180m Sustaining Enterprise Fund for firms in the manufacturing and international services sectors
  • Extension of supports for online trading to €7.6m
  • Expansion of Microfinance Ireland funding by €13m to €20m for COVID-19 loans with interest rates dropped from 7.8% to 4.5%
  • Free mentoring, free online training for all businesses

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD, today announced a major expansion of supports for all businesses impacted by COVID-19. The package is now worth €1 billion in liquidity measures including a new €180m Sustaining Enterprise Fund for firms in the manufacturing and international services sectors. Free mentoring and online training are also available for all SMEs.

Minister Humphreys said:

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 Minister continued:

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 for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe TD added:

Businesses are experiencing unprecedented difficulty of varying degrees. Many have let staff go, many have retained staff through the Government’s Wage Subsidy Scheme and many are shifting their model to adapt to new circumstances. This package of measures being announced today is designed to offer supports to businesses of all hues, from start-ups to more established companies. It is vital that traders examine what is on offer, apply for schemes and loans, many of which are available at reduced rates, to give themselves the best chance of survival during this difficult time.

Commenting on the Trading Online Voucher Scheme for microenterprises, one of two online trading schemes to receive additional funding today worth a combined €7.6m, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, Richard Bruton TD, said:

Trading Online Vouchers are a key government grant to help small and micro enterprises get online. The changes which we are announcing today will help companies, working with their Local Enterprise Office, to get online during this difficult period. This is particularly important when so many small businesses are closed. However, the value of the Trading Online Voucher will stand to your company for years to come, will boost your revenue, and will help you sustain and create jobs into the future.

All SMEs

Minister Humphreys announced that an additional €450m of lending will be provided through the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) for SMEs in all sectors including agri-food. This will provide much needed liquidity for firms and bring total SBCI COVID-19 lending capacity up to €650m with loans available through the pillar banks.

  • Firstly, the €200m SBCI COVID-19 Working Capital Loan Scheme will increase by €250m to €450m. The Scheme is providing essential liquidity support to businesses with over 1,400 applications received by the SBCI so far. Loans can be between €25,000 and €1.5m at a maximum interest rate of 4%. Loan terms range from one year to three years and loans can be unsecured up to €500,000. Interest-only repayments may be available at the start of the loans.
  • Secondly, she announced an additional €200m in COVID-19 funding for the Future Growth Loan Scheme, which will be released in tranches, to provide longer-term loans to COVID-19 impacted businesses. Loan amounts will range €100,000 to a maximum of €3,000,000 per applicant. Loan terms range from 8 to 10 years and loans of up to €500,000 can be unsecured. Interest-only repayments may be available at the start of the loans. The maximum interest rate will be 4.5%.

In addition, the new €2,500 Business Continuity Voucher, available through Local Enterprise Offices, is designed for businesses across every sector that employ up to 50 people. The voucher can be used by companies to develop short-term and long-term strategies to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.

These measures are in addition to the €150m of funding capacity in the Government’s Credit Guarantee Scheme, which Minister Humphreys encouraged businesses to avail of.

Microenterprises (under 10 employees)

The supports also include an additional €30m for microenterprises through the 31 Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) comprising additional funding for Microfinance Ireland and Trading Online Grants for those businesses that are in a position to do business online while complying with the public health guidelines.

Firstly, Microfinance Ireland (MFI), which is administering special COVID-19 Loans, will receive an additional €13m in capital support bringing its total lending capacity up to €20m for the coming period.

The Minister also announced a substantial reduction in interest rates on these loans from 7.8% to 4.5%. Loans can be made up to €50,000 with no repayments required and no interest charged in the first six months.

This reduced rate will be available to all micro-enterprises from retail and tourism, to software and transport, with less than 10 employees, where the application is made through the LEOs or Local Development Committees. The new rate for direct applications to MFI will also be reduced to 5.5%.

Secondly, the Minister is increasing support for two trading online initiatives to a total of €7.6m – the first for microenterprises in partnership with the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton TD, and the second for retailers with over 10 employees.

This is a very important route for businesses to grow and improve their business in the current crisis, and an important element in their recovery over the longer term. The LEOs have reported an increased interest from companies in accessing Trading Online Vouchers and other supports, for example, for businesses that want to provide takeaway services while their restaurants are closed or provide online courses.

The first online initiative is an expansion of the €2,500 Trading Online Voucher Scheme for microenterprises, in agreement with Minister Bruton. An additional €3.3m is being provided to the scheme bringing the total available to €5.6m. The Ministers also announced new flexibilities with the €2,500 Trading Online Vouchers, allowing businesses to apply for a second voucher of up to €2,500 where they have successfully utilised their first one; and allowing subscriptions to low-cost online retailing platform solutions to quickly establish a retailing presence online.

Businesses with over 10 employees

The second online trading support will be available exclusively for indigenous retail businesses with over 10 employees. The Minister is making a new €2m COVID-19 Retail Online Scheme available through Enterprise Ireland.

Today the Minister also announced a further two new supports to assist companies planning for the future, a Business Financial Planning Grant from Enterprise Ireland to the value of €5,000 to assist companies to develop a Business Sustainment Plan and to engage the services of an approved Financial Consultant, and a new €2,500 LEAN Business Improvement Grant from Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland to help companies quickly access expertise to review and optimise operations at a time of crisis and identify the key measures needed to ensure continued viability.

In the manufacturing and international services sectors, which employ over 460,000 people directly and a similar number of indirect employees, Minister Humphreys announced a major new Sustaining Enterprise Fund of up to €180mThis is specifically aimed at all firms with 10 or more employees impacted by COVID-19 that are vulnerable but viable. The Fund will be operated by Enterprise Ireland, providing repayable advances of up to €800,000 as agreed with the EU under new State Aid rules and, together with leveraged lending from the financial markets, should see up to €500m of additional investment in vulnerable but viable firms.  These grants will only be repayable if and when a business returns to financial good health.

Government will continue to explore funding potential at EU level including through the European Regional Development Fund.

Finally, access to equity continues to be an important part of the supports for start-up and scaling firms.  Therefore, the Minister encouraged early stage firms to apply for a new €750,000 Competitive Start Fund (CSF) now available from Enterprise Ireland. This is in addition to a new €30 million Seed and Venture Capital call for proposals to support early stage and scaling firms through Enterprise Ireland under the Government’s €175m Seed and Venture Capital Initiative.

Commenting on the extension of funding for the SBCI Loan Schemes, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed TD, concluded:

The expansion of the COVID-19 Scheme, co-funded by my Department, will provide additional working capital support for SMEs in the agri-food sector. Considering the requirement at this time to keep homes here and abroad stocked with high-quality, nutritious food, this assistance is significant. The expansion of the Future Growth Loan Scheme long-term investment support for primary producers and food businesses, which is also co-funded by my Department, is also welcome. I continue to liaise with the banks on liquidity for the primary sector and also want to highlight the availability of working capital assistance to farmers and fishers through Microfinance Ireland’s COVID-19 Business Loan. In times like these we realise the importance of those who produce, process, package and distribute our food and we will continue to keep the finance needs of the whole agri-food sector under review.


Notes to Editor:

The full range of Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland, Local Enterprise Office (LEO) and Údarás na Gaeltachta grant and advisory supports continue to be available to eligible firms to help with strategies to access finance, commence or ramp-up online trading activity, reconfigure business models, cut costs, innovate, diversify markets and supply chains and to improve competitiveness.

Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) €2,500 Trading Online Voucher

The Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) €2,500 Trading Online Voucher is a Government grant scheme, designed to assist small businesses. It offers financial assistance of up to €2,500 along with training and advice to help your business trade online.  The Trading Online Voucher grant scheme is administered by the LEOs on behalf of the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment. The grant is available to cover 90% of the costs of an online initiative and recipients can be awarded up to two grants of €2,500 to companies which have successfully implemented an initial grant offer. Participating in this scheme can make the process of trading online much easier for businesses. See: localenterprise.ie/Discover-Business-Supports

COVID-19 Retail Online Scheme

The new COVID-19 Retail Online Scheme will be administered by Enterprise Ireland and will be open to retailers employing over 10 people. A similar Scheme ran on a pilot basis over two calls in 2018 and 2019. The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI) has proposed this Scheme in response to the COVID-19 crisis and the urgent need for retail companies to achieve a step change in online capability to achieve business continuity, and also to lay foundations for future recovery and growth. The total fund size will be up to €2 million under this competitive call. The objective of the Scheme is to support companies in the indigenous retail sector with a pre-existing online presence to respond to both the domestic and international consumer demand for a competitive online offer. Successful applicants will be awarded funding to support a maximum of 80% of the project costs. Grants ranging from €10,000 to €40,000 will be awarded under the competitive scheme.

Sustaining Enterprise Fund

The new Sustaining Enterprise Fund of up to €180m, which is approved under the DG Competition Temporary Framework, is open to eligible companies that:

  • Employ 10 or more full time employees
  • Are operating in the manufacturing and internationally traded services sectors
  • For SMEs - have applied for funding from a financial institution, including, where appropriate, through the SBCI COVID-19 Working Capital Loan Scheme
  • For large companies – have completed a formal application process for funding with an appropriate financial institution.

Businesses qualifying under this EU supported scheme will be offered a Repayable Advance of up to €800,000.

The Sustaining Enterprise Fund will be used to support the implementation of a Business Sustainment Project Plan which must be provided by the company outlining the eventual stabilisation of the business and a return to viability.

The funding is open to all Enterprise Ireland, IDA and Údarás na Gaeltachta clients and other companies employing 10 or more in the manufacturing and internationally traded services sector.

The first port of call for liquidity support will continue to be the SBCI/banks.  This new Sustaining Enterprise Fund will be a distinct offer of funding support via a repayable advance which would only be provided where all SBCI/bank options have been fully exhausted.

DG Competition Temporary Framework

The Commission has developed a Temporary Framework to allow member states to put in place short term, targeted responses to the impact of COVID-19 on their economies.  The Framework operates under Art 107(3)(b) TFEU which the Commission may declare aid compatible with the internal market “to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a Member State”.  The Framework allows for aid, in the form of grants or tax or payment advantages of up to €800K per undertaking.  Aid may also be granted in the form of loan guarantees and subsidised interest rates.

€5,000 COVID-19 Business Financial Planning Grant

The €5,000 COVID-19 Business Financial Planning Grant will help companies to develop the Business Sustainment Project Plan.

The grant will support companies with 100% funding to engage the services of an approved financial consultant to develop this plan for use when applying for bank or investor funding and when developing their own medium-term financial strategy. Enterprise Ireland will work with these companies on a one-to-one basis to support the implementation of the plan.

€2,500 Lean Business Improvement Grant

The €2,500 Lean Business Improvement Grant is for a Training project of up to three days carried out by an approved external advisor/trainer directly with an eligible company. It is expected that the three days will be spread over a longer period so that there is time for the company to implement changes between sessions.

It is expected that this support would be delivered online in most cases.

The project should focus on the Operations of the company in terms of;

  • Crisis response where appropriate
  • Sustaining operations including process re-engineering
  • Planning for resilience post crisis.

For more information, go to www.enterprise-ireland.com/businessresponse

€750,000 Competitive Start Fund

The new €750,000 Competitive Start Fund is aimed at start-ups and the call for proposals is open for three weeks through Enterprise Ireland closing on 14 April, 2020.  This fund is open to early stage companies in all sectors in manufacturing and internationally traded services. The maximum support available is €50,000 for a 10% ordinary equity stake in the start-up company.

Online Shopping

Orders may be processed and fulfilled online, but must adhere to the following:

  • The administration/processing activities associated with online orders and fulfilment must be done home-based (i.e. home-based working and not office-based);
  • The employer must have only a minimum level of staff on site (e.g. in warehouse, depot) for fulfilment; and
  • The requirements in relation to physical distancing must be rigorously adhered to in the carrying out of the fulfilment and delivery activities.

These principles apply and must be adhered to, and if not, the activity needs to be curtailed. Online suppliers must be confident in their ability to comply with the public health guidelines announced by Government on Friday, 27 March.

Landlords and Tenants must work together in the face of coronavirus

Landlords and Tenants: you can’t have one without the other, and the Covid-19 crisis is certainly creating challenging and uncertain times for both sectors. Ultimately their fates, as ever, are intertwined. But fairness, transparency and open honest dialogue between both groups will be essential as we navigate this crisis.

In normal times there is a dip, a trough and a recovery. In this case, the dip has been immediate, the trough is uncertain but will last a number of months and for most the recovery is hopefully going to be relatively quick as there will be a push to get back to business both nationally and globally.

Both Landlords and Tenants are interdependent on each other and the failure of one will undoubtedly impact the other. Landlords and Tenants will, of course, be anxious to get through this period while protecting their investments and businesses. This has to happen in a fair and balanced way and needs both sides to understand the difficulties that each sector has. Landlords may have bank loans on the relevant properties and repayments to make plus may need to report to other stakeholders. A business who may have been forced to close or who is operating remotely albeit with a significantly reduced turnover. Unless they have sufficient cash reserves they simply cannot make their rental commitments.

There regretfully is no silver bullet that will solve this dilemma. However, it is obvious that putting unreasonable demands on the tenant and not being prepared to take into account the issues that the business is contending with, will prove counterproductive. Landlords who are inflexible and demand full payment of rent as per the terms of their lease irrespective of the businesses circumstances will greatly impede the ability of the business not alone to recover but indeed to survive.

We don't know when we will return to any degree of normality but it is sadly some way down the road. Any return will more than likely be on a staggered basis and the economy will slowly but surely begin to restart. Every sector needs to support the other, and this includes the Banks, Landlords, Businesses, and Government. Nothing else will suffice if we want an economy and indeed a society to go back to.

Covid-19: Ireland launches “The Community Call” in major nationwide volunteering effort

The Community Call, a major initiative that links local and national government with the community and voluntary sectors, was announced today by Government.

The Community Call is an unprecedented mobilisation of both state and voluntary resources to combat the effects of Covid-19.

The purpose of the Community Call is to coordinate community activity, direct community assistance to where it is needed, and marshal the volunteering energy of the country.

The immediate focus is on the elderly and the most vulnerable, and mobilising rapid response in every country to make sure everyone is looked after. In the coming weeks, the focus will expand to broader the wellbeing of our society and how communities can work together to help the country through the Covid-19 crisis.

The Community call was announced today by the Tánaiste Simon Coveney TD, the Minister for Rural and Community Development Michael Ring TD, the Minister of State for Local Government and Electoral Reform John Paul Phelan TD, and the Chief Executive of Fingal County Council, AnnMarie Farrelly who represented the Local Authorities. Speaking at the launch this morning, An Tánaiste Simon Coveney TD said:

We are all finding it very strange to be home and to be keeping away from our family and community. But those that are vulnerable or in need of a bit of help need to know that they are not alone. The government is tapping into the reach of our local authorities in every corner of Ireland as well as the extraordinary dedication of a legion of voluntary groups and charities. For those who need some help, it is there for you.

Speaking at today’s event, Mr Michael Ring TD, Minister for Rural and Community Development, praised the outstanding contribution of the community and voluntary sector to the national effort to address the effects of the COVID-19 crisis.

Since the very start of this emergency, the community and voluntary sector has been working on the ground and also at national level with my Department, to prepare for the Community Response which we are outlining today. One of our greatest assets in this country is the strength of our local, community and voluntary networks.

We are now asking that those networks – formal and informal – be mobilised so that everyone in our communities can look after each other. If your neighbours or relatives are required to stay at home – check with them to see if they need supports. And if you are in that category yourself, don’t hesitate to ask for help - whether it’s with shopping, fuel delivery, collecting medicines or any other necessities of daily life. The Local Authority helpline is there as a safety net, to ensure that everyone is looked after.

For more information, go to Gov.ie

At National level, Community Call will be overseen by a group from the Department of An Taoiseach, the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, the Department of Rural and Community Development, the Department of Health, and the County and City Management Association.

The Community Call will be overseen and managed locally by our Local Authorities, led by the county Chief Executives. The CEOs, the most senior public official in every county, have been tasked with making this work, and are leading a dedicated community Forum in each county to coordinate and connect the wide range of services and supports that are available. The forum involves an extensive list of state and voluntary organisations. A dedicated phone line is now operational in every county, details at. gov.ie and the national number 0818 222 024 is also now in operation.



  • Cork City Council 1800 222 226
  • Cork County Council 1800 805 819

COVID-19 Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme

COVID-19 Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme - Employer Eligibility and Supporting Proofs/ FAQs on : Operation of the Transitional phase of the COVID-19: Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme


Dear Members,
The Employer Refund Scheme has been replaced by a new and enhanced Temporary COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme for employers.
It is important for you to note that Employers who have already signed up for the refund scheme announced do not need to reapply.  Revenue will contact them to confirm that they meet the conditions for this new scheme.
  • The scheme, enables employees to receive significant support directly from their employer. The scheme is expected to last 12 weeks from 26 March 2020. Draft legislation governing the scheme will be published shortly.
  • To qualify for the scheme, employers must:
    * be experiencing significant negative economic disruption due to Covid-19
    * be able to demonstrate, to the satisfaction of Revenue, a minimum of a 25% decline in turnover
    * be unable to pay normal wages and normal outgoings fully
    * retain their employees on the payroll.
  • An eligible employer will be supported by up to 70% of an employee’s take home income up to a maximum weekly tax free payment of €410 (i.e. 70% of take home weekly income of €38,000 per annum).
  • The scheme will provide support on incomes up to €76,000 or twice average earnings.  It will be capped at net €350 for incomes between €38,000 and €76,000.
  • You can read more detail from Government here.

The approach to this refund scheme has been agreed, and will be managed by Revenue Online Service myEnquiries. Select ‘Employer’s PAYE’ then ‘Employer’s PAYE General Enquiry’ when submitting the query through myEnquiries.


COVID-19 Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme - Information on Employer Eligibility and Supporting Proofs

COVID-19 Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme 

On 24 March 2020, the Government announced measures to provide financial support to workers affected by the COVID-19 crisis. As part of these measures and building on the functionality developed through PAYE Modernisation, Revenue will operate the Wage Subsidy Scheme. This note sets out the Revenue approach to confirming employer eligibility and examination of supporting proofs. The scheme is a significant investment by Government in supporting both employers and employees through a subsidy that will be paid in real-time.

Key Principle Revenue’s general approach to businesses experiencing cash flow and consequent tax payment difficulties is to work towards agreeing mutually acceptable solutions that assist a return to viability as soon as possible. In any such engagement, Revenue expects businesses to be able to produce relevant supporting documentation when requested to do so and to fully engage with Revenue on any follow up discussions or checks.
Revenue’s administration of the COVID-19 Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme will operate on a similar basis – eligibility will initially be determined, largely on the basis of self-assessment and declaration by the employer concerned, combined with a risk focused follow up verification by Revenue involving an examination of relevant business records where that is considered necessary.
The COVID-19 Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme is available to employers across all sectors excluding the Public Service and Non-Commercial Semi-State Sector. To qualify for the scheme a business must be experiencing a significant negative economic disruption due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In general, this will be readily apparent, some businesses and some sectors have had to close their premises, the impact of public health advice on individual businesses in terms of restrictions on trade, physical distancing, the nature of essential and non-essential businesses, will be obvious. It will also be obvious that some businesses will continue trading and, in some cases, have an increase in business.

Our purpose is to support businesses through the scheme, our approach will be based on a presumption of honesty and we expect businesses to approach the scheme in a similar manner.

Application for the scheme is based on self-assessment principles, a qualifying employer declares that it is significantly impacted by the crisis. Key indicators are that the employer’s turnover is likely to decrease by 25% for quarter 2, 2020; that the business is unable to meet normal wages or normal outputs and any other indicators set out in our guidelines.
In relation to the likely reduction in turnover of 25% or more, this is a reduction in expected turnover for Q2, 2020. The employer is best placed to determine that and may base this judgement on the decline in orders in March 2020, in comparison to February 2020, or the likely turnover for the quarter compared to Q1 or if appropriate Q2, 2019, or on any other basis that is reasonable. In Revenue’s administration of this scheme, the key focus will be on the fact of significant negative economic disruption on the employer due to Covid-19.
Regarding retention of employees, the scheme is confined to employees who were on the employer’s payroll at 29 February 2020, and for whom a payroll submission has already been made to Revenue in the period from 1 February 2020 to 15 March 2020. Employees who were laid off after 29 February 2020 may be taken back onto the payroll for the purposes of this scheme.
Revenue will not be looking for proof of qualification at this stage. We may in future, based on risk criteria review eligibility. In this context, employers should retain their evidence/basis for entering the scheme. It will, of course, be very clear to us from our normal relationship with businesses and our normal interaction with businesses that there was no doubt about their qualifications and most importantly it will be very clear that the businesses were so impacted.

Eligibility Supporting Proofs

In any check, Revenue will focus on the types of business records, having regard to the nature and scale of the business, that should normally be readily available for such a business. Where, for example, a business has negotiated forbearance measures with a financial institution, Revenue will not seek to duplicate the relevant information and the documentation from the financial institution will generally be adequate for verification purposes as evidence of financial disruption. As stated already, the critical requirement is to be able to show significant negative economic disruption due to COVID-19. The evidence in that regard will contribute in large part to demonstration of compliance with the other criteria.
The proofs mentioned below are intended to be illustrative rather than exhaustive and Revenue is open to considering other relevant evidence as a reasonable demonstration of eligibility for the COVID-19 Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme and as examples are brought to our attention we will update our Guidelines accordingly.
  • If for some reason the decline in turnover was less than 25% the business should retain documentation supporting its rationale for believing that it would suffer such a decline. 
  • Copies of documentation submitted to a financial institution as part of the negotiation of forbearance measures with the financial institution. 
  • Copies of notifications or communications to employees or Trade Unions or staff representative bodies of salary/wage cuts implemented as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • Copies of documentation that show that any cash reserves in the business that are required to fund debt that is equal or greater than the reserve amount. 
Evidence of reliance on the Government Credit Guarantee Scheme or overdraft facilities or other borrowings for capital purposes.
In the case of start-up businesses, for example, evidence of a decline in investment by at least 25% arising from the COVID-19 crisis.
An employer that has been hit by a significant decline in business but has strong cash reserves, that are not required to fund debt, will still qualify for the Scheme but the Government would expect the employer to continue to pay a significant proportion of the employees’ wages.
To emphasise, the examples listed are illustrative only and Revenue is open to considering other relevant evidence as a reasonable demonstration of eligibility for the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme.


In operating the scheme, Revenue’s priority is to ensure that all employers experiencing significant negative economic disruption from COVID-19 can register for and start to receive payment as quickly as possible.
The declaration by the employer is not a declaration of insolvency. The declaration is simply a declaration which states that, based on reasonable projections, there will be, as a result of disruption to the business caused or to be caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, a decline of at least 25% in the future turnover of, or customer orders for, the business for the duration of the pandemic and that as a result the employer cannot pay normal wages and outgoings fully but nonetheless wants to retain its employees on the payroll.
Revenue does not consider that any employer will require professional advice or assistance in being able to prove to the satisfaction of Revenue that these criteria are met. Should Revenue seek to validate employer eligibility for the scheme, it will adopt a reasonable, fair and pragmatic approach in considering whether the criteria have been met.