The Restaurants Association of Ireland has insisted that €1.2bn set aside by the government to help small and medium-sized businesses cope with soaring energy costs “does not go far enough”.
While Retail Ireland, a unit of Ibec, welcomed the measures, it said continued support will be needed to help businesses cope with their spiraling energy costs.
Finance Minister Pascal Donohoe said in his budget speech the money was being made available as part of a series of measures designed to help insulate households and businesses from the worst effects of the runaway electricity and gas prices.
The measure for businesses is called the Temporary Energy Assistance Program for Businesses (TBESS).
“While the announcement of the Temporary Business Energy Support Scheme to support SMEs is welcome, covering 40% of the increase in electricity or gas bills, up to a maximum of €10,000 per month and per company, that doesn’t go far enough,” insisted Adrian. Cummins, chief executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland.
“The devil will be in the details on this and we’re calling on the IRS to open up and administer the program immediately – some businesses are already struggling to pay the bills that come through their doors,” he added. .
The program will run for six months.
Food Drink Ireland (FDI), the Ibec group representing the food and drink sector, welcomed the energy supports as a step in the right direction, but called for greater support over a longer period.
The government said the aim of TBESS is to provide financial assistance to businesses that have seen their energy bills rise significantly.
The scheme will be administered by the Revenue Commissioners and will operate on a self-assessment basis. Businesses will be required to register for the scheme and make claims within the required timeframes.
For an individual business, its energy costs must have increased by more than 50% compared to the same period last year. It will allow eligible companies to finance up to 40% of the increase in their energy bill compared to the same period of the previous year, within the limit of a ceiling of €10,000 per month.
The government expects the cost of the support scheme to be covered, at least in part, by windfall energy revenues collected from “domestic or international sources”.
The scheme is designed to comply with the EU’s temporary state aid crisis framework and will need to be approved by the European Commission before payments are made, Mr Donohoe said.
“Energy supports are now central to the sustainability of many food and drink businesses, as they will determine their ability to remain competitive in export markets like Britain, where they also face the headwinds of climate change. ‘a weakened sterling exchange rate,’ FDI director Paul Kelly said.
The Ibec Group has also called for energy aid to businesses to match that of other key EU export markets so that food and drink companies can retain their market position.
Catriona Allis, head of accountancy body ACCA Ireland, said it was essential the energy program confirmed yesterday was ‘administered at pace’ to help businesses.