The number of micro-enterprises supported by the Government-backed emergency credit facility Microfinance Ireland has increased by just 46 in the past three months.
The fund — which is open to companies employing 10 people or fewer, with an annual turnover of less than €2m — was established in late 2012.
By its first anniversary last October, Microfinance Ireland had approved €1.62m in lending, supporting 107 firms and 237 jobs in the process, with individual loan amounts ranging in value from €2,000 to €25,000.
In a written response to a question from Labour TD Dominic Hannigan this week, Jobs and Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton said that as of the end of January, Microfinance Ireland had received a total of 414 loan applications, from firms unable to gain credit from mainstream lenders.
Of these, the minister added, 153 have been approved for loans, with a total loan value of €2.37m now having been granted, supporting 338 jobs.
In his reply, Mr Bruton said that “extensive outreach and marketing activity” by Microfinance Ireland at SME-related events had taken place last year, with this awareness-raising effort to be built upon this year.
It was reported late last year that Microfinance Ireland’s establishment and running costs of around €1.1m almost equalled its lending tally in its first year.
The minister added that Microfinance Ireland will also increasingly look at opening new channels for “sector-specific” audiences that have particular difficulty gaining credit from banks.
“Like with any new business with a national reach, the communication strategy is a continuous process that is constantly reviewed to ensure best value for money, best fit with the relevant audiences and optimal use of both limited staff resources and promotional budgets,” Mr Bruton said.
He added: “The environment in terms of SME demand for credit facilities continues to be challenging, but where businesses have been declined bank credit facilities, Microfinance Ireland is committed to ensuring that all applicants with a viable business are given a full and fair assessment under their risk criteria.”
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