Businesses across Cork have been urged not to miss out on a range of financial supports put in by the government to help them manage operations through the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
Ireland South MEP Deirdre Clune has also stressed the vital importance of businesses having an online presence, with many operations forced to close down outlets due to the restrictions in place.
One such scheme, developed under the auspices of the National Digital Strategy, is the expanded Trading Online Voucher, which is aimed at assisting small businesses with up to 10 employees expand their online presence to boost sales and reach new markets.
Under the revised rules finding for the voucher scheme has been bolstered by an additional €3.3 million, allowing for businesses that have already received a €2,500 voucher eligible to apply to their Local Enterprise Office (LEO) for a second one to the same value, with 10% co-funding from the business.
The voucher can be used to help add payment facilities or booking systems to website or developing new apps. It can also be used towards subscriptions to low-cost online retailing platform solutions, helping companies establish an online retail presence.
"I would encourage companies to apply for this support if they feel it can help them at this time. Having a good online presence can be very valuable for companies too and is now more important now than ever," said Ms Clune.
"The retail sector is vital to the Irish economy and it is great to see initiatives such as this being made available to encourage companies to support companies at this time. We need to support our local businesses now more than ever and online is a great way to do that."
Enterprise Minister Heather Humphreys also recently reduced the interest rate for Microfinance Ireland loans to 4.5% for applications mad through the LEO for loans of up to €50,000.
Kevin Curran, head of enterprise with the LEO (Cork North and West) urged eligible businesses to seek help under the initiatives and take advantage of the financial boosts on offer.
"For many local businesses, the options for trading are very limited as a result of COVID-19. However, there are a lot of opportunities in online selling and by accessing this trading online voucher scheme, small businesses can develop a sustainable strategy for increasing sales," said Mr Curran.
"If your business needs access to finance, applying for Microfinance Ireland loans through the Local Enterprise Office will secure the lowest available rate and you will get valuable assistance in the application process and free one-to-one mentoring along the way," he added.
"In addition, Local Enterprise Offices have also moved the majority of training programmes, workshops and networking online, making them as accessible as possible for those working remotely. Log onto our Website www.localenterprise.ie/corkandwest to view all the online training available," said Mr Curran.