CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) – GOVERNMENT FINANCIAL SUPPORT SUMMARY [19TH MARCH 2020]

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

Given the pace of changes, directives and developments from the Government within the last 7 to 10 days which are likely to impact and/or be of some benefit our clients, I have tried to identify and provide a summary of these in as much practical detail as possible.

While some of the detail is yet to be developed, attached (and set out below) are the key aspects of the initiatives and supports provided by the Government for both businesses (and for your employees): 

General

The government has urged all Employers to support national public health objectives by continuing, as a minimum, to pay employees who cannot attend work due to COVID-19 illness or self-isolation, the difference between the enhanced Illness Benefit rate and their normal wages.

This may be achieved through the employer considering a range of flexible working arrangements with their employees such as:

If this is not going to continue to be possible for Employers, then there are a variety of supports for employees provided by the Government, either to assist Employer’s to keep employees on the payroll, or to assist employees who have had their salaries significantly reduced or been made redundant.

Government income supports

A number of income supports are available from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection for your employees during a COVID-19 (Coronavirus) related absence or temporary lay-off from work:

Additional detail relating to each of these supports are included separately under the Employees and Self employed (COVID-19) summary document.

COVID-19 employer refund scheme

On 15 March 2020, the Government announced the implementation of exceptional measures, administered through the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP), to enable workers who are temporarily laid off due to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic to claim a special support payment of €203 per week.

N.B. However it should be noted that, at present, it appears that the scheme WILL NOT apply to Employers who have made the effort to continue to pay their employees as per normal, or at a rate in excess of €203.00 per week i.e. if your business has not already made employees redundant, temporarily or otherwise, or reduced employees hours to below the €203.00 per week threshold, then no refund can be claimed. However the situation is changing rapidly and this may also change in the coming days!

At the time the new payment was announced, the Minister indicated that the preference of the government is that the new payment would, as far as possible, be made via employer payrolls.

This support is also aimed at trying to keep a link between employees and employers, and will ease pressure on social welfare services. 

Bank finance and loans

The Government has negotiated some new and more appropriate approaches with the banking sector, as part of it’s range of initiatives and supports to business (and individuals/employees) during the COVID-19 situation.

Some of the proposals to support businesses include the following:

N.B. – Please note that this means that businesses should generally contact their main bank (and/or other high street banks) in the first instance to access any COVID-19 related loans or finance, BEFORE approaching other lending options e.g. Microfinance Ireland or SCBI etc

N.B. – Please note that this means that businesses should generally contact their main bank (and/or other high street banks) in the first instance to access any COVID-19 related loans or finance, BEFORE approaching other lending options e.g. Microfinance Ireland or SCBI etc

Company tax returns

Revenue has announced that all taxpayers should continue to prepare and submit their payroll, VAT and other tax related returns within the usual deadlines, however please note that where a business is in financial or cashflow difficulties due to the COVID-19 event:

1. Interest: any interest that would be charged on late payments is suspended for all January/February VAT and February and March PAYE (Employers) liabilities (however our sense is that this will likely continue to be case for March 2020 onwards as well.)
2. Debt Enforcement: any and all debt enforcement activity has been suspended by Revenue officers and agents until further notice.
3. Tax Clearance certificates: all current tax clearance certificates will remain in place for all businesses over the coming months.

The above applies to businesses with a turnover of less than €3 million only, with larger businesses being advised by Revenue to contact them directly to discuss their case.

In practice, this will allow many businesses to set aside certain tax obligations in the short term, where necessary, providing some critical cash flow flexibility during this difficult time, however please note that these tax liabilities will remain due and payable even after these events have passed.

Insurance

The Government has advised that all businesses affected by the impact of the COVID – 19 virus, should check if their business insurance policy covers an interruption in your business, or a temporary business closure.

Typically insurance that relates to pandemics (or possibly even notifiable diseases) are likely cover for losses suffered as a result of measures taken by the government to stop the spread of COVID-19, however many businesses may not have this particular cover in place as standard i.e. our suggestion is to speak to your broker or insurance provider to clarify the situation.

Other

It has just been announced that the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI) has started operating a Business Support Call Centre, which is in place to advise business owners on the various Government supports available to businesses affected by COVID-19.

The Call Centre can be contacted at 00 353 1 631 2002.

Microfinance Ireland COVID-19 business loan

Government has provided businesses with access to loan finance as one of a variety of support measures during the COVID-19 crisis, with ad additional avenue available to most SMEs in this situation being the Microfinance Ireland COVID-19 Business loan.

Through this loan initiative ‘Microenterprises’ can access up to a maximum in funding €50,000 from MicroFinance Ireland.

Business loans from the Microfinance Ireland COVID-19 business loan will be available (currently) at an interest rate of between 6.8% and 7.8%, and businesses are being encouraged to apply for this loan finance either through their Local Enterprise Office (LEO) or directly at microfinanceireland.ie.

Strategic banking corporation of Ireland (SBCI) COVID-19 working capital scheme

This is another Government backed loan financing initiative available to businesses of all sizes, however the €200m SBCI COVID-19 Working Capital Scheme will offer a maximum funding (for working capital purposes) to businesses of €1.5 million, with the initial €500,000 being unsecured.

Business loans from the SBCI COVID-19 Working Capital Scheme will be available (currently) at an interest rate not in excess of 4% and applications by businesses need to be made via the SBCI website sbci.gov.ie.

Please note that much of the funding via the SBCI is provided through high street banks and other commercial lending providers, which is generally supported through the provision of an 80% Government Guarantee for qualifying businesses.

Much of the detail around this new loan finance scheme is yet to be worked out but we are expecting the eligibility rules and terms and conditions to be available within a week.

Hopefully all of the above is helpful in terms of clarifying the various Government-sponsored options that are available to you as you try and manage your business through this difficult time.

 

CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) – EMPLOYEE + SELF EMPLOYED SUPPORT [19TH MARCH 2020]

 

 

CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) – BUSINESS FINANCE SUPPORT UPDATE [19TH MARCH 2020]

 

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