Extension of Covid-19 business supports welcomed in Laois

FUNDING: Laois Local Enterprise Office details help

Conor Ganly

Reporter:

Conor Ganly

coronavirus covid-19

Laois LEO staff - Seamus Doran (Business Advisor), Honor Deevy (Senior Enterprise Devevlopment Officer), Evelyn Reddin (Head of Enterprise Laois LEO) and Brigid Dunne (Clerical Officer)

The Laois Local Enterprise Office (LEO) has welcomed the 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 for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD, 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 TD, an additional €3.3m is being provided to the scheme bringing the total available nationally to €5.6m.

Local businesses in Laois that previously benefitted from the Trading Online Voucher Scheme can, from today, apply for a second voucher of up to €2,500, with co-funding of 10%. 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%, where applications are made through Local Enterprise Office Laois. 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.

Welcoming the expansion of business supports, Evelyn Reddin, Head of Enterprise with Local Enterprise Office Laois in Laois County Council said:“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 Laois 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,” she said.

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 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.”

Commenting on the Trading Online Voucher Scheme, Minister Bruton 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.”

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 employs 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. To keep up to date with online programmes, please view www.localenterprise.ie/laois for a comprehensive list and booking details. Examples of a few upcoming workshops are Covid-19 Retail Development Programme Online 15th April 2pm – 4pm and Self-Care & Coping with Stress while remaining Productive Online 16th April 9.30am – 12.30pm. Businesses can also avail of free Covid 19 mentoring in HR, Business Continuity, Finance, Marketing and Social Media which will be carried out remotely by phone, skype, zoom etc.

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.”

More details about small business supports available through Laois LEO can be found at LocalEnterprise.ie/laois or by localenterprise@laoiscoco.ie or telephoning 087 647 7352.

A guide to LEO supports can be found at www.LocalEnterprise.ie/Response, along with details of Enterprise Ireland supports.