Thursday, 18 February 2021
Covid-19 (Enterprise, Trade and Employment): Statements
One of the sectors hardest hit throughout this pandemic has been that of those involved in the entertainment business. People involved in entertainment pay their taxes and contribute to society, not only financially. Since March, most people in the entertainment business have been unable to work due to venues being closed, weddings being practically cancelled or at least whittled down where they are not allowed to have entertainment either in the church or at the celebration afterwards, and functions or dinner dances not taking place. Even funerals were not allowed to have live music due to numbers. Events of all types and sizes were not allowed to proceed. We all understand the reason for this but many of those involved in the entertainment business are finding it very hard to make ends meet. Initially, they were granted the pandemic unemployment payment, PUP, of €350 only to have it cut back even though they could not return to work. As many of them do not have premises on which they pay rates, they were not eligible for many of the grants or schemes that were announced for businesses. I hoped the CBAS, which was announced two weeks ago, would fill a void and help those who were ineligible for the earlier grants or schemes.
I wish to ask a number of questions about it. Does one need a rateable business premises to apply? It has been indicated that a business's turnover needs to have fallen by 75% or more in order to apply. That seems high. What about companies whose turnovers have fallen by 70%, 65% or even 50%? Are they ineligible or can they apply for some sort of support? Are the supports backdated? Many of the people we are talking about have not worked in almost a year and have accumulated large debts in that time.
We all hope that life will return to normal as the vaccination programme rolls out. I also hope that the entertainment sector can return to normal. However, clarity is needed and a plan may have to be put in place now if that is to happen. The wedding industry contributes approximately €2 billion to the economy when everything is taken into account. Many small businesses and self-employed people are struggling. They might be in receipt of the PUP and all payments, grants and so on are welcome, but they are not sufficient for everyone. People still have to pay their mortgages and living expenses as well as cover their insurance and business overheads, which has always been difficult for them.