The Government has launched a further low cost Covid-19 loan scheme for businesses.

The finance will be available to small and medium businesses (SMEs) including farmers, fishers and food businesses.

Low cost loans between €25,000 and €1.5 million will be available with terms of one to six years.

Credit will be available without security where the loan amount is less than €500,000 and the finance will typically feature a lower interest rate than other comparable lending in the market.

Up to 30% of new loans may be allowed for refinancing of existing short-term credit.

In order to qualify for the loans, businesses must have experienced an adverse impact of a minimum 15% in turnover or profit due to the impact of Covid-19.

The scheme is delivered by the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI), through participating lenders.

The Covid-19 Loan Scheme replaces the Covid-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme (CCGS) which closed at the end of June.

As of the end of May, the CCGS had seen more than 10,000 SMEs access finance of over €700 million.

Launching the new scheme, Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar said it recognises the fact that many businesses are still getting back on their feet after what has been an incredibly challenging few years.

"This successor scheme will give SMEs, including farmers, fishers and food businesses, the option to access really competitively priced loans, should they need to avail of that option, in addition to the other help that is available," Mr Varadkar said.

Neil McDonald, the chief executive of Irish Small and Medium Enterprises, has said that some SMEs are suffering the long term impacts of Covid-19, but that workers have been sensible about not coming to work if they have symptoms.

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The ISME CEO said the new low cost Covid-19 loan scheme for businesses was welcome and was especially important now, as wages are rising across the board but not as high as foreign multinationals, but small businesses can only increase wages to a level which they can recover from costs to customers.

He said that a lot of SMEs prefer longer dated debt, and that businesses are still struggling because of Covid, particularly retail as they had not rebounded as quickly.

"A lot of businesses have not recovered, and you only need to walk down main streets in our towns to see shuttered retail windows, and very badly affected by a change of purchasing trends and there is long term scarring here," Mr McDonald said.

In terms of Covid infections, he said that businesses are not seeing large waves of people out but there is a concern about the pattern of sickness and absence, as it currently looks like what you would see in a traditional bad flu season, he said.

He said that they expect absences on a rolling basis and workers are testing themselves and absenting themselves if they are ill or symptomatic which is preventing spread, with a lot of people working from home where they can.

Mr McDonald also said that ISME would be concerned if the Government was going to inject more money into the economy with inflation rates as they are currently.

He said that this was not the answer, adding that you can not spend your way out of an inflationary spiral.

"Small employers are really feeling the pinch in wage demand and expectation because of the cost of accommodation, housing and rent, and the Government has to intervene to get those costs down but I don't think the answer to that is to inject more money on the income side," he stated.

He said that the lowest paid and those not in employment do need a buffer against the inflationary cycle, and ISME would like to see measures strictly directed to those most in need, only the worst off.