Whilst the uncertainty of Covid-19 is putting a lot of strain on small and medium businesses, there is a number of supports available at the moment to help businesses, with further announcements expected in the coming days and weeks.

What employment and income supports are available?

As you are aware, The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection last week introduced some new measures to provide income support to people affected by COVID-19 (Coronavirus).  The three main changes announced were

  1. Waiving the current 6-day waiting period for Illness Benefit for any individual who has COVID-19 (Coronavirus) or is in medically-required self-isolation
  2. Increasing the personal rate of Illness Benefit from €203 per week to €305 per week for a maximum of 2 weeks in regard to medically required self-isolation or for the full duration of absence from work following a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 (Coronavirus)
  3. Changing the normal social insurance requirements for Illness Benefit

The Department of Employment and Social Protection has now introduced a temporary refund scheme for those affected financially by the coronavirus pandemic.  The Government is asking employers, whereby it is possible, who have temporarily laid off employees due to social distancing to continue to pay employees during this period at least at the jobseeker rate of €203.00 per week.  Employers will be able to claim refunds from the Department of Social Protection of €203.00 per worker per week.

If this is not possible the employee will have to submit a claim personally for Jobseekers.  This new Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment is available to all employees and the self-employed who have lost employment due to the downturn in economic activity due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  The payment has a simple one–page application form and will be paid for a period of 6 weeks at a flat rate payment of €203 per week for jobseekers.  Individual applying for the payment will be required to apply for the normal jobseeker’s payment within this 6-week period.

There is no need for you to attend your local Intreo Centre but you can apply in the following ways:

  1. An application form for the new Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment can be downloaded here (https://www.gov.ie/en/service/be74d3-covid-19-pandemic-unemployment-payment/) and returned to PO BOX 12896, Dublin 1
  2. You can apply for another income support from the DEASP through their online portal www.MyWelfare.ie (you will need a Public Services Card)
  3. You can phone them on 1890 800 024 or 01 2481398 and they will send you the relevant application form for the new payment.

If an employees’ work hours are reduced to 3 days or less per week from their normal full-time hours, the employee can apply for a payment called Short Time Work Support which is a form of Jobseeker’s Benefit. The payment is made in respect of your regular salary for the days that you are no longer working. For example, if your working week has been reduced from a 5-day work pattern to a 3-day work pattern, you can receive support for the other 2 days. Short-time Work Support is paid for a maximum of 234 days. Your entitlement will depend on the number of social insurance contributions you have.  To qualify for Short-time Work Support, you must satisfy the two main PRSI Conditions for Jobseeker’s Benefit. Employees must work 3 days per week or less to qualify, having previously been employed on a full time basis.

What other business supports are available?

The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI) and Local Enterprise offices are working to develop and deliver additional support to help you through this rapidly evolving situation.  These supports include additional business advice services and business mentoring services in areas including finance, cashflow, HR, supply chain and logistics.  It is the aim of the LEO to arrange and deliver these sessions via phone or video call.  

Micro Finance Ireland have increased the maximum loan available from €25,000 to €50,000 as an immediate measure to deal with the exceptionally circumstances that SME’s are now facing.

The Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) is currently working to finalise the terms and conditions of the SBCI COVID19 Working Capital Scheme and the eligibility application process for this.

What measures have the Revenue announced to aid businesses?

Revenue have announced new measures to help SMEs who are facing cash flow difficulties as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.    Revenue have advised that; the application of interest on late payments will be suspended for January/February VAT and both February and March PAYE (Employers) liabilities; All debt enforcement activity will also be suspended until further notice and that current tax clearance status will remain in place for all businesses over the coming months.  In relation to Subcontractors, Revenue have stated that the RCT rate review scheduled to take place in March 2020 is now suspended.

Revenue have advised that businesses experiencing temporary cash flow difficulties should continue to send in tax returns on time and are actively encouraging businesses to engage with them early.     

What can business owners do to help mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on their business?

Covid-19 has brought with it many new challenges to our communities and businesses.   It is important for all businesses to take the necessary steps needed to protect the workforce – business owners need to think outside the box, is there another way that we could operate? Can those meetings that were have always been held face to face, now be held virtually via video call? Is there a back-up plan in place should a member of staff become ill?   A back up plan could include contingencies for increased automation, remote working arrangements and/or staggering work shifts.  Set expectations with your staff and encourage open communication between all involved.

The management of cashflows and business plans has an increased importance during this period.  Follow up on any customer payments due, particularly from larger firms, seek extended credit terms with suppliers, have an open conversation with your bank to see what options are available to your business in terms of increased overdrafts/working capital loans and also to clarify expectations on any existing repayment obligations.  Keep communication with your bank open – speaking to your bank today about current debt obligations, the impact that Covid-19 is having on your business cashflow and on what additional assistance you may need in the short to medium term can assist you in creating longer term plans. 

Communication is key – give us a call or drop an email to info@mccarraconnolly.ie if you need any support or guidance on issues surrounding Covid-19.