Just 1,065 SMEs have been approved for two of the main Covid support schemes in the three months to August, according to new figures from the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland - which operates the schemes.

€1.25 billion worth of loans are available under the Covid-19 Working Capital Scheme and the Future Growth Loan Scheme, however only €180m worth of loans have been approved since May.

773 companies have been approved for the €450m Working Capital Scheme, with €100m worth of loans approved.

27% of of the loans approved under this scheme were for businesses in the wholesale and retail sector, while 19% went to firms in the manufacturing sector. The biggest loan issued under the scheme was for €1.5m.

In relation to the Future Growth Loan scheme, the figures show €80m worth of loans have been approved for 292 firms since May.

22% of the loans approved under this scheme were for companies in the agricultural, forestry and fishing sector. €3m was the largest loan amount approved under the €800m scheme.

When asked why the uptake is so low for the two schemes, Nick Ashmore, CEO of the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland, said that while businesses have access to a wide range of supports, borrowing is not something any Irish firm takes lightly.

"As businesses look forward to the future, they don't have a very good picture - so it has taken them time to figure out what they need to borrow, when they need to borrow and how they are going to go about doing that," he said.

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Mr Ashmore said he believes these scheme are easily accessible to businesses, despite past criticism.

"The two schemes have a straightforward eligibility process. We turnaround the forms for that process in around 48 hours and then it is into a normal bank application process. However, with the very large scale €2 billion Credit Guarantee Scheme, we have taken away the eligibility check and businesses just apply straight to the banks for that scheme," he said.

The schemes are provided by a number of banks, as Mr Ashmore explained.

"The Covid Working Capital Scheme is available through AIB, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank, while the Future Growth Loan Scheme is available through the same banks and also KBC. Within the next few weeks we will be bringing forward two more institutions to deliver the Future Growth Scheme," he said.

Mr Ashmore said the interest rates on both schemes are "very attractive".

"The Covid Working Capital Scheme is a three year fixed loan with an interest rate of 4%. Typical rates for working capital schemes are anything from 5.5-8%.

"On the Future Growth Loan Scheme, which is a much longer term loan scheme for a period of between seven and ten years, we have two levels. Loans of up to €250,000 are at rates below 4.5%, while loans above €250,000 are at rates below 3.5%," he said.

"Banks apply their own rates and they compete on the use of that funding so if you shop around there are lower rates available. We have seen even lower rates with the new Credit Guarantee Scheme as well, with rates coming down to around 2.5%" he added.