Public Policy Bulletin, 17 August 2020

Aug 17, 2020

In today’s Public Policy news, read about further Government initiatives in Ireland to fund the reopening of businesses affected by COVID-19, including a new €1,000 grant to help sole traders.  In the UK, read about the measures to help the ailing UK economy which was officially classed as being in recession this week. 

New €1,000 grant to help self- employed

Sole traders who have had to cease their operations as a result of COVID-19 can now apply for a grant, worth up to €1,000 per person, to help their business get back operating following COVID-19.

The Enterprise Support Grant has been upgraded and is designed to help those self-employed who do not qualify for the Restart Grant Plus Scheme because they do not pay commercial rates.  Wages, fuel, new equipment, signage and PPE are all covered by the grant. 

Small businesses who employ fewer than ten people, have an annual turnover of less than €1 million and do not pay commercial rates can qualify for the grant.  It will be paid on the basis of expenditure incurred by an applicant to re-open their business and will cover such costs up to €1,000.

Previously the purpose of the Enterprise Support Grant was to help entrepreneurs set up new businesses.   Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys secured funding for the grand as part of the July Jobs stimulus package.

More details, including how to apply, can be found on gov.ie

Government provides extra €300 million to fund business reopening

Since last week, businesses can avail of increased funds from the Restart Grant Plus Scheme to help them reopen. The scheme is one of several actions the Government is taking as part of the July Jobs Stimulus, designed to help businesses to reopen and employ people following the impact of COVID-19.

Key changes to the Restart Grant Plus Scheme are:

  • €300m additional funding has been added to the €250m previously committed;
  • the minimum grant amount has increased from €2,000 to €4,000 and the maximum from €10,000 to €25,000. Businesses that received a grant under the first scheme can re-apply to receive the additional funding;
  • the number of employees in eligible companies has increased from 50 to 250;

non-rateable B&Bs, sports clubs with commercial activities and trading charity shops are now also eligible to apply.

Further details, including how to apply, are available here.

New Government scheme to incentivise employers to recruit apprentices

The Government is offering a financial incentive of €3,000 to employers to encourage them to take on apprenticeships across a wide range of sectors. The Apprenticeship Incentivisation Scheme, launched by Minister for Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, will apply to each new apprentice registered between March 2020 and the end of the year. Employers will receive €2,000 up front for each new apprentice taken on and a further €1,000 in 12 months if the apprentice is still in employment.

The new scheme is designed to increase employment by increasing the numbers of people currently doing apprenticeships across a wide range of sectors from construction to financial services.  Launching the scheme this week, Mr Harris said the apprenticeships will “play a key part in Ireland's recovery and our country's future” and encouraged all employers to consider the scheme.

The government provided funding for this new incentive in the July Stimulus package. Employers can find out more about the Apprenticeship Incentivisation Scheme here.

UK economy enters recession

The UK is officially in recession after its economy shrunk by over 20 percent between April and June this year, compared with the first three months of the year. According to the Office for National Statistics, record falls were reported in services, factory and construction output in response to restrictions imposed by the government to cope with COVID-19.

Household spending fell by 23.1 percent and while some improvement was reported in June as government restrictions on movement began to ease, GDP for June remains well below levels in February.

To somewhat address this, the Bank of England has put in place a package of measures, including:

  • cutting interest rates to 0.1 percent, meaning cheaper loans for businesses and lower interest rates on mortgages;
  • incentivising banks to offer more lending to small and medium-sized companies;
  • supporting large businesses and their employees by offering them loans for up to twelve months.

In its latest monetary policy report, the bank says that UK banks are strong enough to keep lending to UK households and businesses and, in doing so, will support economic activity and limit longer‐term economic damage.

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