Minister for Business Heather Humphreys has announced an expansion of the Government's Trading Online Voucher scheme after it received three years' worth of applications in three months following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in March.
The scheme allows small businesses to claim up to €5,000, in two vouchers worth €2,500 each, to develop their ecommerce capability.
It saw 3,962 applications between mid-March and early June, compared with 1,218 applications in the whole of last year.
Typically, businesses are using the money to help accept payments or bookings online or to develop new apps for clients or employees.
As a result of the surge in applications, Ms Humphreys and Minister for Communications Richard Bruton have announced an additional €14.2 million in funding for the scheme, bringing it to €20 million in 2020.
Since March nearly 4,000 businesses have applied for a voucher through their local enterprise office to help them get online and to do more business online, said Oisín Geoghegan, chair of the network of local enterprise offices.
“We’re seeing hundreds of examples from around the country of small businesses starting to sell online for the first time during the Covid-19 crisis,” he said.
Ms Humphreys described the scheme as an essential part of the Government’s coronavirus supports to enable small enterprises to meet the ongoing trading challenges.
“Thousands of small businesses across the country have already benefited from funding under the scheme,” she said. “The additional funding which we are announcing today will mean that total funding for the scheme has been increased by almost 1,000 per cent.”
Mr Bruton said: “Now more than ever enterprises are relying on their online capabilities to interact with their customers. With this additional funding we will be able to provide approximately 7,700 vouchers this year to small businesses, compared to 1,200 last year.”
Chambers Ireland chief executive Ian Talbot said the ability to trade online had been a lifeline for so many businesses during the lockdown and would continue to be a valuable support.