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Press Release for Immediate Release – 9th April 2020

Local Enterprise Office Welcomes Expansion of Business Supports

Expansion of Trading Online Voucher Scheme and reduction in Microfinance Ireland interest rate announced

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD, has announced a 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 Humphreys 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 County Carlow 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 Carlow. 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.
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.”

Welcoming the expansion of business supports, Pauline Hoctor , Senior Enterprise Development Officer with Local Enterprise Office (Carlow) in Carlow 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.”
She added: “If your business needs access to finance, applying for microfinance loans through Local Enterprise Office (Carlow) 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.”

Speaking about the support process , Kathleen Holohan , Chief Executive with Carlow County Council said “we understand the challenges of our business community and our team has worked and will continue to work with businesses to help them gain access to state supports and put in place a continuity plan for their business” , Holohan continued to say “we continue to support the innovation and change agenda for County Carlow companies and we are working with a wide variety of companies on marketing , business planning and digital capacity development and I’d encourage owners managers to reach out to our offices for an online appointment to find out more about these services”.

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 employ 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.This includes programmes in Management Development , Retail , Digital and Remote Working Management.

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 Local Enterprise Office (Carlow) can be found at LocalEnterprise.ie/carlow or by e-mail enterprise@carlowcoco.ie or by calling 059-9129783
A guide to Local Enterprise Office supports can be found at LocalEnterprise.ie/Response, along with details of Enterprise Ireland supports.