Restart grant scheme welcome but more needs to be done to support SMEs – McGuinness

img_4023Sinn Féin Councillor Conor D. McGuinness has encouraged SMEs in West Waterford to apply for assistance under the Restart grant scheme but warned that inadequate Government support for the sector will results in high unemployment for years to come. 

McGuinness said: 

“The Restart scheme offers grants of between €2,000 and €10,000 for small and medium enterprises based on their 2019 commercial rates bill. The scheme is being administered by Waterford Council and applies to businesses that are liable for commercial rates, employ less than 50 people, and that closed or suffered a 25%+ loss of turnover due to the pandemic. Eligible businesses can apply online at www.waterfordcouncil.ie.

“I have been engaging with the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation and with the Council over recent weeks to in the run up to this scheme opening for applications. It is a welcome development and the grants will be useful to SMEs that need to install protections for employees and customers, or who need to replenish stock ahead of reopening. 

“That said, this scheme is limited in that it only applies to businesses with rateable premises, and grants are capped at the commercial rates paid in 2019. For many businesses this falls short of the support they need to survive this crisis and to reopen. 

“The economic exposure ratio for the South East stands at 47.7% and Dungarvan has an economic exposure rate of 47.4%. A recent members survey by Chambers Ireland shows that 43% of member businesses in Waterford have completely closed as a result of the crisis, and this figure does not take into account the many businesses and sole-traders that are not Chamber members. 

“Sinn Féin has called for further supports to be rolled out for small businesses through direct grants, an extension of the commercial rates break, and zero-interest loans. 

“As ISME and others have noted, this Government is lagging far behind other European countries in its financial supports package for SMEs. 

“Take up on its loan scheme has been extremely low, while the grants provided in the new Restart scheme, although welcome, are too small. The Government has been slow to act and has not done enough to support small businesses. 

“The consequences of their inaction could be severe, with tens of thousands of jobs permanently lost. Fine Gael has done little to support SMEs over the past decade. Their refusal to provide adequate financial support to SMEs risks the very survival of the sector.”