GOVERNMENTAL INITIATIVES IN RESPONSE TO COVID-19
Ireland has entered an unprecedented period in its history. The global Covid-19 pandemic has arrived on our shores and life for all citizens and businesses is now unrecognisable from just a few weeks ago. We are adapting to new a new way of living and are all working together to try and reduce the spread of the virus and its impact on the economy. The Government has introduced the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Bill 2020 which aims to assist us in our attempts.
The Revenue Commissioners, the Companies Registration Office, The Courts Service and other State Bodies have also brought in measures to try and support the public generally as well as those running businesses. Here we have summarised some of the initiatives which are being implemented over the coming days, in a bid to assist you in these trying times.
GOVERNMENTAL INITIATIVES IN RESPONSE TO COVID-19
1. CREDIT SUPPORT
1.1 COVID-19 Business Loan.
The COVID-19 Business Loan from Microfinance Ireland is a government initiative to support small businesses through the current period of uncertainty and protect job creation or sustainment in Ireland. Product Features are as follows:
- Loans from €5,000 – €50,000;
- Supports businesses who have been impacted negatively by coronavirus in Ireland;
- Loan terms typically up to 3 years;
- First 6 months – Interest & Repayment free;
- No fees/no hidden costs/charges;
- Fixed repayments/no penalty for early repayment.
- Any business (Sole Trader, Partnership or Limited Company) with less than 10 employees and annual turnover of up to €2m;
- Not in a position to avail of finance from Banks and other commercial lending providers;
- 15% of actual or projected turnover or profit is negatively impacted by COVID-19.
Apply Online at https://microfinanceireland.ie/loan-packages/covid19/
1.2 Pillar Bank Supports
The Credit Guarantee Scheme will be available to COVID-19 impacted firms through the Pillar Banks. Loans of up to €1m will be available at terms of up to seven years. The Credit Guarantee Scheme is a Government supported product from the banks for small and medium enterprises, providing an 80 per cent guarantee to participating banks. Businesses can apply for loans of up to €1m for terms of up to seven years from AIB, Bank of Ireland, or Ulster Bank. Refinancing of existing debts will be excluded as the purpose of this Scheme is to facilitate additional lending into the economy. Property-related activities will be excluded from the Scheme. Applications can be made through the SBCI website.
There are also extensive support mechanisms for SME customers with the banks working to ensure that simplified access to a wide range of credit, cash flow and supply chain supports will be offered to businesses. This also includes deferrals of up to 3-months on loan repayments. The banks are adopting a customer-focused approach to businesses with a wide variety of tailored supports including extensions of credit lines, risk guarantees, and trade finance.
2. EMPLOYMENT SUPPORT
2.1 COVID 19: Enhanced Illness Benefit Payment
When a worker is told to self-isolate by a doctor or has been diagnosed with COVID-19 (Coronavirus) by a doctor, they can apply for an enhanced Illness Benefit payment of €350 per week. To be eligible for this payment a person must be confined to their home or a medical facility. It will be paid for a maximum of 2 weeks where a person has been instructed by a doctor to self-isolate, however it will be paid for the full duration of a person’s absence from work if they have been diagnosed with COVID-19 (Coronavirus) by a medical professional.
How to Apply:
If any of your employees are suffering from COVID-19 or a doctor advises that they self-isolate, the doctor will then complete a medical certificate on their behalf and send this directly to the Department of Social Protection.
To receive a payment, the employee will need to provide their doctor with their name, DOB and PPS no. The employee will also need to complete an application form for Illness Benefit (Form IB 1). There are three ways that they can make an application: call 1890 800 024 or 01 2481398 between 9.00am and 5.00pm Monday to Friday to get an application form by post, organise someone to pick up a form at their doctor’s surgery or at their local Intreo Centre. It is important that they complete part 5 of the Illness Benefit form as this contains how they would like to be paid – they should refer to the company’s sick policy to determine whether this needs to be paid directly to their company or into their own bank account. An online application process is now available.
2.2 Temporary COVID -19 Wage subsidy scheme
This scheme is expected to last for 12 weeks and will be available to all Irish employers of any size and any sector whose business has been adversely affected. This scheme refunds employers who keep employees on payroll. Unlike the UK furloughing scheme, it is not necessary that the employee cannot do any work. It will be run out through the revenue system.
It has been introduced in two phases:
Phase 1 is intended to be a short, transitional phase during which employers will be refunded up to a maximum of €410 for each qualifying employee from 26 March 2020.
Phase 2 which will commence no later than 20 April 2020, will be a subsidy payment where employers will be refunded based on the employee’s average net weekly pay;
The payments are capped at the level of 70% of previous average weekly take home pay, to a maximum of €410 per week; and at €350 for employees where the previous average net weekly pay is greater than €586 but less than €960; No subsidy will be paid where previous average weekly net take home pay exceeds €960 per week.
Revenue have published comprehensive guidance on the subsidy and how to apply. To review this information see https://revenue.ie/en/corporate/communications/covid19/temporary-covid-19-wage-subsidy-scheme.aspx
2.3 Short Time Work Support
Short-time Work Support is a form of Jobseeker’s Benefit and is an income support payment if an employee has been temporarily placed on a shorter working week. The payment is made in respect of their regular salary for the days that they are no longer working. For example, if their working week has been reduced from a 5 day work pattern to a 3 day work pattern, they can receive support for the other 2 days.
For example, if an employee is placed on a 3 day work pattern having previously worked 5 days, they may be entitled to up €140.00 for the 2 days they are no longer working. This represents two fifths of the maximum weekly rate of Jobseekers Benefit of €350. They may also get an increased rate of payment for a qualified adult and qualified children. Short-time Work Support is paid for a maximum of 234 days. The entitlement will depend on the number of social insurance contributions they have. Employees must work 3 days per week or less to qualify, having previously been employed on a full-time basis.
Employees can also apply for Short-time Work Support at their Intreo Centre or Social Welfare Branch Office.
2.4 Enhanced emergency COVID -19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment
If you decide to close your business for this period and send employees home. This is called a temporary lay-off. If you cannot pay your staff for this period, they can apply for a special COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment. This emergency payment has been introduced for anyone whose employer is unable to continue to pay them.
The payment is available to all employees and the self-employed who have lost employment due to the pandemic. Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment will be in place for 12 weeks.
For more information see https://services.mywelfare.ie/en/topics/covid-19-payments/covid-19-pandemic-unemployment-payment/
3. REVENUE SUPPORTS
Revenue has provided the following updated advice which will further assist businesses that are experiencing trading difficulties caused by the impacts of COVID-19.
3.1 Information for SMEs
- Application of Interest: the application of interest on late payments is suspended for January/February VAT and both February and March PAYE (Employers) liabilities.
- Debt Enforcement: All debt enforcement activity is suspended until further notice.
- Tax Clearance: current tax clearance status will remain in place for all businesses over the coming months.
3.2 Information for Subcontractors
RCT (Relevant Contract Tax): the RCT rate review scheduled to take place in March 2020 is suspended. This process assesses the current compliance position of each subcontractor in the eRCT system and determines their correct RCT deduction rate, i.e. 0%, 20% or 35%. As this process may result in a subcontractor’s RCT rate increasing due to changes in their compliance position, the review is suspended.
Subcontractors and agents are reminded that RCT rate reviews can be self-managed in ROS. Subcontractors can check if their rate should be lower and can then ‘self-review’ to get that lower deduction rate.
3.3 Deferral of payment of LPT
Irish Revenue announced on 16 March 2020 that for property owners who opted to pay their LPT for 2020 by annual debit instruction or single debit authority payment the payment date will automatically change from 21 March 2020 to 21 May 2020.
4. ADVISORY & CONSULTANCY
A €200m Package for Enterprise Supports including a Rescue and Restructuring Scheme is available through Enterprise Ireland for vulnerable but viable firms that need to restructure or transform their business.
- A Finance in Focus grant of €7,200 is also available to Enterprise Ireland and Údarás na Gaeltachta clients, to enable them to access consultancy support to undertake immediate finance reviews.
- Act On Initiative – The initiative is available to Enterprise Ireland clients and is delivered at no cost to the company. The initiative is intended to help companies strengthen their capabilities in Financial and Currency Management, Strategic Sourcing and Customs and Logistics.
- Businesses may also be eligible for a Business Continuity Voucher through their Local Enterprise Office. The initiative will provide advisory specialists in fields including finance and HR to help develop a lean, robust, business strategy as enterprises face an extended period of great uncertainty. Details of eligibility for this voucher will be published later this week.
The Department of Business, Enterprise, and Innovation is now operating a Business Support Call Centre to advise on the Government supports available to businesses and enterprises that are affected by COVID-19. The Call Centre can be contacted at 00 353 1 631 2002
5. COMPANIES REGISTRAION OFFICE
The Registrar of Companies has decided that all annual returns due to be filed by companies between now and 30th June 2020 will be deemed to have been filed on time if all elements of the annual return are completed and filed by that date. This will enable businesses and their financial advisers to focus on the more pressing and immediate financial challenges. The situation will be kept under review and the date of 30th June may be extended depending on the situation at that time.
The CRO are encouraging everyone to continue to file as normal during this period if they are in a position to do so. Annual returns may not be processed within the usual timeframes, however, anything received will be queued and processed as soon as possible.
The CRO have confirmed that all strike off action has been suspended. No Companies will be struck off prior to the 30th of June 2020 and no Companies that have been struck off will move to dissolved either during this period. All E1-SAP’s filed by the 30th of June 2020 will be deemed to have been received on time
Companies should check the CRO website www.cro.ie for more details.
6. DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have advised that Authentications/Apostilles Public Offices in Dublin and Cork closed on Friday 27 March 2020 and will remain closed until further notice. They will however continue to authenticate/apostille documents received by post. Documents should be sent by registered post to:
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
80 St. Stephen’s Green
A brief covering letter should be included providing the following information:
- your name
- return address
- telephone number
- the name of the country the document(s) are for use in
- the appropriate fee
- Payment can be made by Irish bank draft or postal order or by providing a contact number and a request that the department can contact you for payment by credit/debit card.
- All enquiries regarding the service and the public office in Dublin can be made by calling 01 408 2174 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
7. THE COURTS SERVICE
The Courts Service have introduced measures to scale back the work of the court, meaning in a huge decrease in the numbers required to attend in court. Additional changes will be implemented to scale back those numbers even further over the coming days. The changes will see only urgent cases, and cases not involving witnesses, etc. going ahead in the coming weeks.
Court offices are only open by appointment for specific limited and urgent matters.
Please see the statements of the Chief Justice and Presidents in respect of each court jurisdiction on the Courts website: http://www.courts.ie/Courts.ie/Library3.nsf/pagecurrent/CFBD614F393A630880258494003A8B40?opendocument.
8. OFFICE OF THE DIRECTOR OF CORPORATE ENFORCEMENT
The ODCE have confirmed that they will accept Section 682 reports in electronic form (preferably Word or PDF). They will require the original signed reports to be submitted in due course and it is the ODCE’s preference to have the signed copy prior to issuing a definitive decision. The reports should be submitted to email@example.com
9. PROPERTY REGISTRATION AUTHORITY (“PRA”)
Clients selling purchasing or leasing a property should be aware that the position in relation to these services may change from day to day, including during the course of their transaction, and may disrupt the normal course of their lease/ sale/purchase. The PRA announced on the morning of 30 March 2020 that all applications for registration, other than eRegistrations and online viewing of folios and file plans, are suspended until 12 April 2020. The PRA has further advised us that:
• The PRA staff (other than IT personnel) are no longer attending at the office.
• No applications are being processed – everything is suspended until 12 April 2020.
• Applications for registration of judgment mortgages, cautions, inhibitions and priority entries are all suspended. These are just some examples. Be clear that all applications for registration are suspended except for two forms of eRegistration: eDischarges and eNursing home registrations.
• No registrations affecting maps will be done in the next two weeks.
• All unopened post will have the same priority as of the date the PRA re-opens.
• Law searchers can do only electronic searching – they can do the same electronic searching as before.
• Solicitors can still view folios and file plans online but cannot obtain official certified copies of same (or of any other documents).
If you have any queries in relation your commercial, employment or other issues in relation to your business please do not hesitate to contact Patricia Heavey, Partner, Patrick F. O’Reilly & Co. by email firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone 086-8040731.
Please note that the within document does not constitute legal advice and is for general information purposes only. Each situation is different and should be considered in conjunction with your legal advisors.
Key Contacts: Patricia Heavey Commercial & Employment
email@example.com M: +353868040731 Michael Crowley Real Estate
firstname.lastname@example.org M: +35383 8619545 Ciaran O’Shaughnessy Commercial Probate & Trust
email@example.com M: +353863123604 Jacinta O’Sullivan Real Estate & Commercial
Jacinta.firstname.lastname@example.org M: +353879511113