Enterprise, Trade and Employment | Assisting small businesses through the cost-of-living crisis
To ask the Minister for Enterprise; Trade and Employment the current strategy in place to assist small businesses through the current cost-of-living crisis; if any further initiatives are contemplated in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– Bernard J. Durkan T.D.
For ORAL answer on Thursday, 23 February, 2023.
Budget 2023 contained a number of measures aimed at assisting small businesses with rising costs. The main programme introduced by Government to alleviate cost pressures for small business was the €1.25 billion Temporary Business Energy Support Scheme (TBESS). As you are aware the Government announced on Tuesday last a new round of cost of living supports. As part of this the Temporary Energy Support Scheme is being amended to allow more businesses apply for this grant.
It is now proposed to make the following amendments to the TBESS scheme:
- To extend the end date of the scheme, which is currently 28 February 2023, to 31 May 2023 with an option to further extend it to 31 July 2023 by Ministerial Order.
- To reduce the ‘energy cost threshold’ for the scheme, such that a tax compliant business may claim relief where it can demonstrate that the average unit price for electricity or natural gas on the relevant bill has increased by 30 percent or more as compared to the average unit price of electricity or natural gas in the reference period. This revised threshold will be applied on a retrospective basis from September 2022 such that businesses who were not previously eligible for the scheme due to the 50 percent energy cost threshold may now be eligible for the scheme.
- To increase, on a prospective basis from 1 March 2023, the level of relief from 40 percent of the eligible cost to 50 percent, subject to the monthly limits on aid provided for under the scheme.
- The monthly cap will also be raised from €10,000 to €15,000 from 1st March onwards.
It should be noted that approval under the Temporary Crisis Framework for State Aid measures to support the economy following the aggression against Ukraine by Russia is required before these amendments to TBESS can be implemented.
There will also be a new scheme for grants to businesses who rely on oil and LPG as their energy source.
The Government also approved the following which will help businesses going forward.
- The temporary reductions in VAT on gas and electricity, from 13.5% to 9%, will be extended to 31 October 2023 at an estimated cost of €115 million.
- The temporary reduction in VAT on Tourism and Hospitality, from 13.5% to 9%, will be extended to 31 August 2023 at an estimated cost of €300 million.
Alongside these supports, as part of Budget 2023, the Government introduced the €200 million Ukraine Enterprise Crisis Scheme, which assists viable but vulnerable firms of all sizes in the manufacturing and internationally traded services sectors manage the economic impact of the current crisis in Ukraine. The scheme is aimed at businesses experiencing significant difficulty as a result of increased energy costs. Through supporting businesses in meeting energy costs, these measures will help protect the jobs of those working in impacted sectors.
Falling wholesale gas prices are now beginning to feed through to wholesale electricity prices, and while it may take a period of time for this to feed completely through to reduced energy bills, there are no plans currently in place for additional support targeted at tackling costs for businesses beyond those announced on Tuesday. Government will continue to keep developments in energy costs under review.
Government has supported enterprise though a period of excessive energy costs. However, Government cannot fully insulate businesses from developments in international energy markets indefinitely, and the latest cost-of-living measures announced on Tuesday reflect a more targeted approach focused on the most vulnerable groups.
The Government continues to offer supports to firms improving their energy efficiency, helping businesses reduce the amount of energy they use in the first place and improving take-up of the approximately 20 existing schemes that are in place for business to help them reduce their energy costs. These include the Green4Micro programme and the Climate Toolkit for Business. Additionally, small businesses can receive an energy audit voucher from SEAI to get professional advice on how to increase efficiency and reduce their costs. Other financial assistance includes the SEAI Community Grant and grants for microgeneration.
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