A major expansion of the Trading Online Voucher Scheme to help small and micro enterprises to get online quickly has been announced today.
The scheme is being expanded by €14.2m after the Local Enterprise Offices received three years' worth of applications in three months following the outbreak of Covid-19 here.
There were 1,218 applications for the scheme last year, but the scheme saw 3,962 applications from the middle of March to early June of this year alone.
Following a previous expansion of the scheme in early April, total additional funding for the scheme is now almost €20m for the year.
Under the scheme, small businesses can claim up to €5,000 in two grants worth €2,500 each.
It also facilitates subscriptions to low-cost online retailing platform solutions to quickly establish a retailing presence online.
Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys said there has been unprecedented demand for the Trading Online Voucher Scheme since the outbreak of Covid-19.
"The Scheme is an essential part of our Covid-19 business supports for small businesses, and it is vital that we continue to make it available for enterprises to meet the ongoing trading challenges," Heather Humpheys said.
"Thousands of small businesses across the country have already benefitted from funding under the scheme. The additional funding which we are announcing today will mean that total funding for the scheme has been increased by almost 1000%," the Minister added.
She said the ability to trade online has become more and more valuable as the country moves through the phases of re-opening the economy, particularly as it faces into a period of reduced capacity on shop floors.
"A quality online presence compliments your existing bricks and mortar business and allows you to advertise and trade to a much wider customer base. Online sales have been a lifeline to many SMEs during Covid-19 and we have seen major success stories of small businesses actually increasing their sales during the pandemic due to their online platform," she added.
Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment Richard Bruton said the additional funding will provide about 7,700 vouchers this year to small businesses, compared to 1,200 last year.
"This funding will provide crucial support in these very challenging times. It will also ensure that enterprises are building the capacity now which will see them well positioned to take advantage of the digital transformation into the future, as more and more consumers take their business online," Mr Bruton added.
Chambers Ireland has today welcomed the expansion of the scheme.
Chambers Ireland chief executive Ian Talbot said the ability to trade online has been a lifeline for so many businesses during the lockdown and will continue to be a valuable support, even as we move to Phase Two of reopening the economy.
"Covid-19 has been extremely challenging for our local economies, and we are by no means out of the woods just yet. However, the capacity of businesses to innovate, particularly SMEs, during lockdown has proven to be a saving grace for so many retail and hospitality businesses," he added.