A £1.7 million stimulus fund to help rural businesses expand, innovate and sustain local communities has been launched in Northern Ireland.
Applications to the £1m Rural Micro Business Growth Pilot Scheme and the £700,000 Rural Business Development Grant Scheme are now open.
Rural affairs minster Edwin Poots said Covid-19 had hit Northern Ireland’s rural business community 'hard'.
"Micro and small business owners, particularly in our rural areas, have been impacted by a downturn in trade," he said.
“The NI Executive has put its focus towards recovery and part of that is to help rural businesses have confidence to invest and expand, and to stimulate economic growth and development."
The Rural Micro Business Growth Scheme will provide an opportunity for rural micro businesses to apply for a grant of between £5,000 and £40,000.
The money will be used for new technologies that improve productivity, create growth in the rural economy and make a positive climate related contribution.
The Rural Business Development Grant Scheme will be targeted at micro businesses and will provide capital grant assistance of up to £5,000 for the purchase of equipment and machinery for new business practices.
The minister added that it was 'vital' that rural businesses were supported to 'sustain and grow'.
"I have no doubt that this will generate a positive economic response from our resilient and innovative rural businesses,” Mr Poots added.
The minimum grant support available for the Rural Micro Business Growth Scheme is £5,000 and the maximum grant will be £40,000. The grants will fund up to 50% of eligible costs.
The Rural Business Development Grant Scheme will provide grants of up to £4,999 at an intervention rate of 50% of eligible costs for existing rural businesses.