Wednesday, 15 December 2021
Finance Bill 2021: From the Seanad
The wage subsidy scheme has helped every other business to go through a very hard time. However, I have been on to the Minister's office more than once about the 18% of the hotel industry that does not qualify under the scheme because they cannot register before 31 December. That means they have over 70% of their earnings compared to the 2019 accounts.
The hotel industry has not only lost November and December but its worst months are January and February. That means they have lost four months. What they needed to make in November and December was to carry them through January and February so they would be ready for the tourism season in March and for the rest of the year. The Minister is telling me he cannot reverse this and it cannot be implemented. I am asking him to put in an amendment. Anyone who was on the wage subsidy scheme from this year should qualify to go on to it for next year. It is not new applicants but existing applicants who have been availing of the scheme and were interfered with from the point of view of income for 2020.
I said I would give the Minister a figure so he might be able to go back and find the funding. This was costed at €7.5 million to save 11,000 jobs on the wage subsidy scheme for January and February of next year. While the Government launched the stay and spend initiative to great ceremony, it was unsuccessful. This initiative was targeted at the hospitality industry and the Government set aside €250 million for this scheme. As only €300,000 was claimed under that scheme, that means there is €249,700,000 left that was put aside for it. I am asking for €7.5 million to save 11,000 jobs on the wage subsidy scheme for next year. They are not asking to go on it for November and December this year. They are asking to go in on 1 January because they do not qualify under the Government's scheme. The hospitality sector has been hit twice. It was hit in 2019, 2020 and 2021. It needs the help. The Minister has to understand that January and February are when they have the lowest income coming in. They make their money in November and December. With the restrictions that have been put in place, and I believe on Friday the Government is looking at more possible restrictions, these hoteliers will not survive. That means we have 11,000 jobs that could end up going on the PUP or on the live register and that might never be returned to hospitality.
I am asking the Minister to protect and save the hospitality industry, including the musicians who need to be subsidised as well. It is a big cohort. I urge the Minister to go back to the €250 million he put aside for the stay and spend initiative and to invest in the music and hospitality industry. In my account, there is €249,700,000 left. That will save the hospitality sector and the music industry for the first couple of months next year.