By Conor Forrest
KILDARE’s Local Enterprise Office (LEO) has responded decisively to the immediate challenge posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Survival is the over-riding objective at present for most small businesses – sales have significantly dropped or indeed disappeared for many overnight and the pace and depth of the economic shock has been described as unprecedented.
Kildare LEO took immediate action, including the suspension of repayments due from repayable grants for an initial three-month period, the creation of emergency programmes to help businesses manage the crisis, and the provision of advice to struggling businesses on government schemes to help them cope.
A new emergency loan scheme has been created with Microfinance Ireland, which allows businesses with less than 10 employees access up to €50,000 with 0% interest for six months, as well as a six-month moratorium on repayments. Kildare businesses are encouraged to apply through the county’s LEO to receive a 1% discount on the APR after the initial six-month period, in addition to mentoring to increase their chances of having their application accepted.
SMEs with up to 50 employees can also apply – through the LEO – for a new Business Continuity Voucher to access specialist expertise and advice in putting a strategy to deal with Covid-19 in place.
“This immediate change to our circumstances called for a root and branch, pivotal refocus of all services provided by the LEO and the way they are delivered,” Jacqui McNabb, Head of Enterprise in Kildare, explained. “We have responded decisively to this immediate challenge through the implementation of urgent and necessary actions, focused on addressing the crisis to our SMEs. Businesses need to know that there is support available to them and we are working with many businesses impacted by this crisis to provide them with sound advice so that they can assess their options and make the best decisions.”
Kildare’s LEO was also the first in Ireland to introduce two new five-day online programmes – ‘Leading Your Business Through Covid-19’ and ‘Cash Management in a Crisis. Alongside a suite of other online interactive workshops, both are currently free to Kildare businesses and booked out within minutes of being published. Business owners are encouraged to email their expressions of interest to [email protected]
“SMEs in our county are one of our most valuable sources of employment, they also play a vital role in the fabric of our communities,” said Cllr Suzanne Doyle, Cathaoirleach of Kildare. “The Local Enterprise Office is there to support Co Kildare businesses and will be a valuable resource for our SMEs in the weeks and months ahead as they deal with this unprecedented crisis.”
Similar sentiments were shared by Peter Carey, chief executive of Kildare Co Council. “It is important that business owners and operators know that the LEO office is still supporting them and their services during this emergency,” he said. “They have changed their focus from assisting businesses to grow, to helping them survive and protect as many jobs as possible.”
To access a comprehensive list of the latest information and supports available to businesses in Kildare, visit localenterprise.ie/Kildare and sign up to the ‘Kildare Enterprise News’ ezine.