Seven of the country's largest credit unions, all members of Metamo, have become the first credit unions to offer loans to SMEs under the Government's Covid-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme (CCGS).
Metamo is the joint venture between credit unions and Fexco and was set up in July 2019.
The seven credit unions joining the CCGS have a combined membership of about 250,000 members and include Cara Credit Union, Mallow Credit Union, First Choice Credit Union, People First Credit Union, St Canice's Credit Union, Limerick & District Credit Union, and Synergy Credit Union.
SMEs and agri businesses, who are facing challenges due to the pandemic, will now benefit from greater access to funding under the scheme.
The seven Metamo credit unions have been approved to offer loans ranging between €10,000 and €1m, for terms of between three months and five and a half years.
Metamo has a combined lending base of €1 billion and this initiative is one of several that will enhance its ability to serve the needs of its members and the business community.
A total of 16 credit unions make up Metamo and it has over 480,000 members.
Joe O'Toole, Chair of the Metamo Credit Union Group, said the group had been approved as the first community lenders who can offer loans under the Covid-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme, a space previously reserved for the large pillar banks.
"The credit unions gaining approval have the track record and relationships to engage effectively with businesses needing support. Our Credit Unions are keen to support local businesses, knowing that their continued success is in the interests of our members and our communities," Mr O'Toole said.
The Credit Guarantee Scheme is the biggest ever state-backed loan guarantee in Ireland.
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It offers an 80% Government guarantee to participating lenders to provide Irish businesses, including those in the farming and fishing sectors, with access to low interest loans as they respond to the impacts of Covid-19.
Three non-bank lenders - Linked Finance, CapitalFlow and Finance Ireland - are now also included in the Covid-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme.
Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar said the inclusion of credit unions means more options for SMEs seeking to take out a loan.
"Credit unions are embedded in communities across the country and business owners will be able to seek advice from staff who they already have an existing relationship with," Mr Varadkar said.
"The inclusion of three non-bank lenders too, means more choice for business customers. We will continue to diversify the lenders participating in this scheme," he added.