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Laois TD calls for new supports for small and medium businesses in the Midlands

Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley has called for additional supports for small and medium sized businesses in Laois.

Today, the Laois TD’s party wrote to the Minister for Finance and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation outlining their proposals.

They include an extension of the commercial rates break, a new €2bn Back to Business Loan Scheme at zero interest rates and grants paid directly to SMEs in affected sectors such as retail, tourism and hospitality.

These are broken down further as follows:

An SME Grant Scheme for SMEs similar to that introduced Sinn Féin’s Finance Minister Conor Murphy, where one-off grants of £10,000 and £25,000 were provided to SMEs. The current policy of grants equivalent to no more than a firm’s 2019 commercial rates bill is totally inadequate to address the cashflow problems of our SMEs.

A Back to Business Loan Scheme that would provide loans of between €2,000 and €60,000 for small firms, with a 100% guarantee to participating finance providers. Unlike the current SME Credit Guarantee Scheme, SMEs would not be required to make any repayments in the first 12 months with zero interest rates applied.

Reducing the cost of borrowing under existing Government loan schemes such as the covid-19 loan scheme through Microfinance Ireland by applying zero interest rates in the first 12 months.

Extending the commercial rates break for a further three months, with an additional three month deferral available for affected businesses.

Deputy Stanley said: “Sinn Féin has written to both Ministers requesting additional supports for SMEs that have been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

“According to the Central Bank, there are more than 220 thousand SMEs that together employ more than 750,000 people that have been severely or moderately impacted by COVID-19.

“Economic recovery and return to employment in Laois/Offaly can only happen if our SMEs recover and this needs support from Government.

“The measures put in place to date to support small businesses in Laois/Offaly have been totally inadequate to date.

“Between 23rd March and 11th May, not a single loan was approved to SMEs under the SME Credit Guarantee Scheme.

“Up to May 7, less than €7 million in loans had been granted to small enterprises across the state under Microfinance Ireland’s COVID-19 loan scheme.

“These are policies that should be implemented as soon as possible to support our SMEs in Laois/Offaly, who are the mainstay of our local economy.”

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Stradbally native Alan Hartnett is a graduate of Knockbeg College who has worked in the local and national media since 2008. Alan has a BA in Economics, Politics and Law and an MA in Journalism from DCU. His happiest moment was when Jody Dillon scored THAT goal in the Laois senior football final in 2016.