Tánaiste asks Dáil to approve €483m to assist SMEs

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar. Photo: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has asked the Dáil to approve nearly half a billion euro in extra funding to allow his Department of Business to assist SMEs.

Speaking at the Dáil sitting at Dublin's Convention Centre, Mr Varadkar said it was critical that the spending be approved to allow his department operate state aid programmes.

Failure to do so, he said would "have devastating consequences on everyone who is now getting back to work and set-back our economic recovery".

Mr Varadkar said that the Covid-19 crisis had taken a "terrible toll on our families, our communities and our country". He said that while it was good to see businesses open yesterday, the crisis was not over.

Things are still very difficult for many people, but confidence is slowly coming back, and people are hopeful once again.

"The new Government’s job over the next few weeks and months is to give meaning to that hope by backing our people and our business and doing what we can to help."

Mr Varadkar said the €483 million fund would include:

  • €180 million for the Sustaining Enterprise Fund;
  • €11.79 million for further recapitalisation of the Microenterprise Loan Fund;
  • €41.21 million to fund a €450 million increase in Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland Covid lending including through the €250 million expansion of the Covid Working Capital Scheme and the €200 million expansion in the Future Growth Loan Scheme; 
  • and €250 million for the Restart Grant.

The Sustaining Enterprise Fund will be used to increase by €6 million the funding available under Enterprise Ireland's Retail Online Scheme.

Sinn Féin's Imelda Munster said that her party would approve the estimates in order to avoid the "risk of failure if state doesn’t provide adequate supports".

Fianna Fáil's Robert Troy said that the Restart Grant was "too restrictive".

I think the restart grant, as I mentioned to the Tánaiste's predecessor, is too restrictive, being solely based on businesses' rates in 2019 and taking no account of the costs associated with reopening a business, such as providing PPE gear and screening and whatever work needs to be done.

"In Westmeath, the median rates of our businesses in 2019 was €1,800. That means 50% of the businesses in Westmeath were paying €1,800. At best, they will now get €2,000. It is not a lot of money for businesses that have been closed for 14 weeks and who have large expenses in reopening."