The Irish Government has announced the expansion of its support measures for SMEs affected by the economic impact of the coronavirus.

Under the plans, an additional EUR450m of lending will be provided through the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) for SMEs in all sectors, including agri-food. A new EUR2,500 Business Continuity Voucher will be available to businesses that employ up to 50 people, to enable them to develop short- and long-term strategies to respond to the pandemic.

Businesses with fewer than 10 employees will be able to access additional capital support through special COVID-19 Loans, and interest rates on these will be reduced, while support for trading online initiatives will be enhanced. For businesses with more than 10 employees, a COVID-19 Retail Online scheme will be made available, along with a business financial planning grant and a business improvement grant.

Early stage firms can apply for a new EUR750,000 Competitive Start Fund. In the manufacturing and international services sectors, a new Sustaining Enterprise Fund will provide repayable advances of up to EUR800,000.

Business Minister Heather 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.”