State aid: Commission approves €60 million Irish scheme to support SMEs affected by coronavirus outbreak

The European Commission has approved a €60 million Irish scheme to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The scheme was approved under the State aid Temporary Framework. The scheme, which goes under the name of the “Small Business Assistance Scheme for COVID (SBASC)”, will be open to companies in all sectors, except financial institutions and companies operating in the primary production of agricultural products, fisheries or aquaculture sectors. In order to be eligible, companies will have to meet certain criteria, including being an SME with a turnover between €50,000 and €25 million and employ 250 people or less and not being eligible for support under the “Government’s COVID Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS)”, the “Fáilte Ireland Business Continuity grant” (SA.61236) or other direct sectoral grant schemes. Under the scheme, support will take the form of direct grants of up to €4,000 for the period from 1 January to 31 March 2021. Ireland anticipates that a further payment of €4,000 will be made to those companies that will still be eligible for the second quarter of 2021. The Commission found that the Irish scheme is in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. In particular, the aid (i) will not exceed €1.8 million per company and (ii) can be granted until 31 December 2021. The Commission therefore concluded that the measure is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a Member State, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. On this basis, the Commission approved the measure under EU State aid rules. More information on the Temporary Framework and other actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.62301 in the State aid register on the Commission’s competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved.