Thursday, 18 February 2021
Covid-19 (Enterprise, Trade and Employment): Statements
I thank the Tánaiste and the Ministers of State for their attendance and for the opportunity once again to discuss the business supports available during this pandemic. I have spoken before about the unprecedented supports given by Government, which have been warmly welcome and necessary for all those businesses. In particular, I mention the Covid restrictions support scheme, the employment wage subsidy scheme and the waiver of commercial rates.
The Tánaiste might outline further information about the Covid business aid scheme and when that information will be made available to businesses. There are outstanding issues with so-called orphan companies, which I have spoken about before, and the fact that they are falling between the cracks. I know the Government is examining this and I look forward to further updates on that.
As the vaccine programme is being rolled out and ramped up and as hope is returning to many businesses, people are telling me that they are beginning to look to the future. That said, the Government should use the next few weeks to examine the economic outlook and prepare a national restart plan. The current Covid supports will keep many businesses going over the coming months as they have done in recent months but there will be challenges for the economy as it begins to reopen. We know it will not be one big bang of a reopen and that has been said before. It will happen on a gradual basis and hopefully over the summer months. Many businesses have significant restart costs and as the different sectors begin to reopen they will need an injection of working capital. I ask the Tánaiste to begin preparations in this regard. If possible, an indication should be given in the Government's revised living with Covid plan. Businesses will need tapered supports while they look to reopen. Again, this should be signalled where possible and as early as possible. Early announcements such as costs of commercial rates would be welcome. Despite every support for some businesses, the landscape has changed and many will not be able to return as normal. I welcome the remarks of the Minister of State, Deputy Troy, and the work he has done on the restructuring of businesses, which in some cases might have to examine an orderly wind-up, examinership or liquidation, and fast-track low-cost wind-ups or restructuring should be made easier, particularly after this pandemic.
In the time I have remaining, I ask the Tánaiste to come back to me afterwards on the online trading voucher. It has been popular, particularly in Dublin, but many people have told me that the programme has either been oversubscribed or that there are delays getting onto it. I know that €20 million was given to that but I would like an update on the uptake for that over the four Dublin local authorities.