Businesses whose trading has been severely disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic can now apply for funding from the Government's €250m Restart Grant scheme.

The fund will offer grants worth between €2,000 and €10,000 to qualifying firms, with those reopening under the first two phases of the official roadmap and those who have remained open throughout set to be prioritised.  

"I want to ensure that eligible companies with the most immediate need to get back up-and-running receive the grant support as quickly as possible," said Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys.

The aim of the fund is to help micro and small businesses to meet the costs associated with the reopening of their companies and rehiring staff.

The funding will be based on rates paid by each individual firm last year, but in cases where that amount was particularly small, a minimum of €2,000 will be paid.

To apply, the businesses will have to fill in online application forms on the websites of their local authority. 

But firms are being urged to wait until a few weeks before their business is due to reopen before submitting their application to the local authorities.

"Staff in the local authorities will endeavor to process applications quickly, but a quick turnaround will be difficult to achieve if every business applies immediately," said Minister Humphreys.

Only commercial businesses who pay local authority rates and have an annual turnover of under €5m, with up to 50 employees will qualify.

Firms must also have suffered a projected 25%+ loss in turnover to end June 2020 and commit to remain open or to reopen if it was closed.

They must also make a declaration that they intend to retain employees that are on the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme and re-employ staff on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment as business recovers.

In cases where a firm is based in a rateable premise but was not rate-assessed last year, they can still apply and an estimate will be made by the local authority of what the rates for the period would have been.

There had been concerns that office based professional services firms such as accountants, estate agents and solicitors, would not qualify.

But this issue seems to have been addressed by the Department of Business and guidance issued by local authorities indicates they are included.

The fund is part of a €12bn suite of measures announced recently by the Government aimed at helping firms to survive and resume trading over the coming months.

However, some organisations representing small firms say much more needs to be done to assist with liquidity.

ISME yesterday accused the Government of not understanding how urgently liquidity is needed in the small and medium sized enterprise sector.

It said the speed of economic recovery will be hampered if workable, adequate liquidity solutions are not put in place in the coming days.

It added that the Government's assumptions on future tax receipts will prove dangerously optimistic if workable assistance is not put in place.

While Chambers Ireland has called on the Government to urgently commit to increased funding and a more expansive approach, so that businesses of all sectors affected can receive support.

"The scale and scope of supports for business needs to be radically expanded," said Ian Talbot, Chambers Ireland chief executive.

"Today's launch of the Restart Fund is welcome, and we are encouraging our members to make full use of the initiative. However, we need Government to accept the scale of the economic catastrophe which is upon us, and act accordingly."

"Immediately, liquidity is the most pressing concern. Indeed, it is grant aid, not debt-based solutions, that will be required."