THE Government’s emergency loan supports for small firms are too slow and difficult to access and should not be channelled only through pillar banks. Figures show only an €11m drawdown to 56 firms from the Government’s initial €200m pool of emergency capital to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The Covid-19 Working Capital Scheme, launched on March 10, allows SMEs to seek loans of up to €1.5m via AIB, Bank of Ireland or Ulster Bank. First they must be deemed eligible by the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland, then go through a traditional loan application.

The scheme includes Government underwriting of unsecured loans of up to €500,000. Terms include potential seven- year repayments with interest rates capped at 4pc.