Government outlines further measures to support businesses impacted by Covid-19

2nd May 2020

The Government has today (Saturday) agreed, at a special Cabinet meeting, a suite of measures to further support small, medium and larger business that are negatively impacted by Covid-19.

It follows the publication yesterday evening of the Government’s Roadmap for Reopening Society & Business, which sets out a five stage plan to ease the Covid-19 restrictions and reopen Ireland’s economy and society. The Covid-19 emergency has had an unprecedented impact on our economy, as well as our society. As we begin the phased reopening of our economy, the Government recognises that businesses require significant additional supports. Today’s package of measures aims to help our businesses to restart, reconnect and rehire staff who have been laid off or furloughed. 

The Government has already brought forward a series of measures to support those impacted by this global pandemic. They have included emergency income support such as the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme and the Pandemic Unemployment Payment. It is now necessary to introduce a number of additional measures to aid the economy as the Covid-19 restrictions start to be lifted.

Those measures are:

  • A €10,000 restart grant for micro and small businesses based on a rates/waiver rebate from 2019;
  • A three month commercial rates waiver for impacted businesses;
  • A €2 billion Pandemic Stabilisation and Recovery Fund within the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF), which will make capital available to medium and large enterprises on commercial terms;
  • A €2 billion COVID-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme to support lending to SMEs for terms ranging from 3 months to 6 years, which will be below market interest rates;
  • The ‘warehousing’ of tax liabilities for a period of twelve months after recommencement of trading during which time there will be no debt enforcement action taken by Revenue and no interest charge accruing in respect of the warehoused debt;
  • A commitment to local authorities to make up the rates shortfall, so that local authorities can continue provide full services to the public

Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business and updates to public health guidelines

The Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar has confirmed Ireland’s Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business as well as some changes to the public health guidelines.

Swimming pools are dated for 20th July (Phase 4) and Gyms/Studios/Sports Clubs (and other indoor recreational activities) for 10th August (Phase 5). This will obviously pose operational issues for facilities that operate both wet and dry sites. In addition, the prolonged period of closure will impose severe economic pressure on businesses and employees. We will be engaging again with government both on the roadmap and the supports needed for our members businesses to survive and re-open in this economic crisis.

Below summary of measures announced this evening (see page 12):

The changes to the public health guidelines that will come into place next Tuesday, 5 May are that:

  • people will be able to go up to 5 kilometres from their home to exercise
  • people who are cocooning can leave their homes for exercise or a drive as long as they avoid all contact with other people

These changes were announced alongside Ireland’s Roadmap for reopening society and business – which lays out a timetable for lifting the current restrictions.

Guidance for re-opening (page 15)

  • The Department of the Taoiseach will arrange for a process of consultation through relevant Departments which will assist to flesh out how the Public Health Framework can be implemented effectively and safely across different sectors of the economy with an initial focus on measures to commence in the first phase of easing of restrictions.
  • A National Protocol is being finalised by Government, employers and trade unions, with the assistance of the Health and Safety Authority, which will support a gradual restart of economic activity as restrictions are eased, while protecting the health and safety of workers as they return to work.
  • The Protocol is being developed following discussions at the Labour Employer Economic Forum (LEEF), which is the forum for high level dialogue between Government, Union and Employer representatives on matters of strategic national importance.
  • It will be necessary to determine the most effective type of inspection/enforcement regime that is required to achieve compliance across all business sectors. Employers, employees and the public at large will need to have confidence that they will continue to be protected in going about their business.

Ireland Active will continue to liaise with government to develop guidance for the sector to re-open safely.

Supports for business

  • Recognising the pressures facing many sectors, in particular SMEs, which will not be able to re-open in the short-term based on the framework set out in this Plan, the Government will shortly introduce a number of additional measures to assist affected enterprises which are facing acute liquidity pressures as a result of the further extension of the shut-down period. It will also develop targeted measures to assist enterprises as and when sectors are permitted to re-open under the gradual relaxation of restrictions.
  • In developing its approach, the Government will ensure that Ireland makes maximum use of EU funding and support where available and appropriate, including the European Investment Bank.
  • As re-opening more sectors becomes possible, the Government will bring forward initiatives including a re-alignment of public capital investment under the National Development Plan, the promotion of the digital economy and remote working, while seeking to ensure Ireland is well-placed for what is likely to be a very different global and domestic economic paradigm.

Income Supports for Workers and Families

  • As outlined above, the Government has introduced extensive emergency supports to help retain workers in employment and provide income support to those who have lost their jobs due to the crisis. It has also introduced enhanced supports for those who can’t work due to being diagnosed with the disease or required to self-isolate, as well as additional support via the fuel allowance for pensioners.
  • These measures were a rapid response to the crisis, providing immediate income support to people affected and their families, at a very high cost to the Exchequer. These costs will not be sustainable over the longer term.
  • The Government is extending the emergency measures taken in relation to Illness Benefit and the waiver of waiting days for jobseeker payments, which were due to finish on the 9th of May, until 19th of June.
  • Between now and the end of May, the Government will be developing a roadmap for future labour market measures as we move towards a path of normalising the emergency interventions taken to date. This will take account of decisions to re-open certain sectors, the need to support people back into jobs as they become available as well as structural changes in the labour market.