Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe’s planned summer Covid-19 recovery package need only cost €2.7bn upfront but could save many thousands of jobs at small firms, according to Ireland’s main business group, Ibec.
Its shopping list of emergency supports for SMEs includes direct grants for 70,000 small firms and for the Government to provide 100%-backed loans of zero interest rates for a year to keep firms from going under.
However, Ibec says Mr Donohoe will only be catching up with the supports that firms already have in the North, and have also been tried and tested in keeping small firms alive in Switzerland and Germany since the March lockdowns.
Ibec wants Mr Donohoe to top up by an extra €1bn an existing €250m pot to allow the Government to provide €15,000 to each of more than 70,000 small firms it estimates will likely qualify for the “restart grant”.
It said there needs to be no upfront cost whatsoever for the Government for it to unveil a State credit-guarantee scheme of cheap or zero-interest loans targeted at small firms.
The potential liability would be a fraction of the States’ total liability of €2bn under the loans’ scheme if the overall package helps the economy to rebound, it said.
However, there was mixed news yesterday on the state of the recovery, as figures showed the number of people availing of the pandemic unemployment payment continued to fall as the Covid-19 restrictions are lifted, but that huge numbers continue to depend on the Government payment.
There were 498,700 people needing the payment last week, a fall of 32,800 from a week earlier.