COVID & Brexit Recovery Supports for Irish PEAK Businesses

The impact of COVID has meant that there is now an increased prevalence of people working remotely from home and often in rural areas and others moving to rural areas particularly those who seek the healthier and better working life. This has enhanced the demand for high quality broadband throughout the country and transportation options throughout the country. As a result, the ‘Death of the Cities’ has become a trend. This movement of people to rural areas has increased footfall and potential increasing the demand and potential for PEAK businesses. This has meant COVID has changed and influenced future policies and strategies so that they are able to respond. One such Plan is The Economic Recovery Plan (ERP). It brings together policies and initiatives to drive the economic recovery in rural and mountainous areas. The four main areas of focus set out in the ERP include

  1. Helping people back into work through intense activation and skills opportunities
  2. Re-building sustainable enterprises through targeted supports and policies to make enterprises more resilient and productive
  3. Ensuring a balanced and inclusive recovery through strategic investment, regional development and improving living standards
  4. Sustainable public finances for a lasting recovery

In addition to substantial funding for labor market, enterprise and sectoral supports, the Plan is underpinned by further strategic investment through Ireland’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan, with relevant projects integrated throughout the plan rooted in advancing the green transition, accelerating and expanding digital reforms and transformations, recovery and job creation.

COVID and Brexit Recovery

One such investment priority is the 31 Local Enterprise Offices located throughout Ireland now have strategic Covid-19 and Brexit priorities focusing on Entrepreneurship, Competitiveness and Digitalization, Sustainability, Innovation and Exporting in rural areas. The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation developed a response report ‘Building Stronger Business’ covering the Brexit Business Transformation with firm level assistance e.g., the Agri-Food Transformation Fund.

Since 2009, Government has introduced a range of measures to support increases in SME credit to viable businesses – including lending targets for banks, the promotion of new SME credit providers, the provision of a credit guarantee scheme and the introduction of a range of non-financial or soft supports (e.g. measures to improve awareness levels amongst SMEs of the full suite of business supports available, and measures to enhance the financial capability of SMEs).

Another measure is they designed and developed a Business Advisory Hub to assist SMEs to make informed funding/investment decisions as they respond to Brexit and other strategic challenges.

Microfinance Ireland loan schemes are designed in consultation with stakeholders to improve access to finance for SMEs at an affordable cost and attractive terms and conditions. These will address Emergency responses to shocks such as Brexit (upcoming Brexit Impact Loan Scheme) and Covid-19, and address market failures in the availability of longer-term financing (the potential development of a new loan scheme to incentivize investment) and availability of microfinance through Microfinance Ireland.

The Brexit Loan scheme aims to make up to €300 million available to business with up to 499 employees at a proposed interest rate of 4 per cent

NextGenerationEU is the Recovery and Resilience Facility. The aim of the Facility is to address the economic and social impact of the pandemic and make European economies and societies more sustainable, resilient, and better prepared for the challenges and opportunities of the green and digital transitions. Ireland will receive approximately €990 million in grants from the Recovery and Resilience Facility. This has guided the development of Ireland’s Plan, along with the economic and social need for recovery through upskilling and reskilling. The reforms and investments to be supported by the Plan will comprise the following three priorities: (see full document here)

Priority 1: Make it Green €518 million of NRRP funds invested in reducing carbon footprint, clean energy, sustainable transport, protecting our environment, nature and biodiversity, consumption, the future of food…

Priority 2: Make it Digital €291 million of NRRP funds will be invested in ultra fast 5G broadband, digital identity (Eid), smarter cities and rural areas, secure online shopping, AI to fight climate change, improved business support…

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Priority 3: Social and Economic Recovery and Job Creation €181 million of NRRP funds invested in reducing barriers to entrepreneurship and reforming taxation.

These funds will support PEAK and other SMEs, will reskill and upskill the workforce in rural mountain areas. They will provide investment in research and development in emerging technologies and green initiatives ensuring that Ireland is well placed to take advantage of the opportunities arising from a green and digital Europe.